Tag Archives: TV

super bowl™ ads, through the eyes of students.

The Super Bowl™ presents an excellent opportunity for people, like me, who teach advertising to tie it to key lessons. And, as often happens in classes, I learned almost as much from what students thought were effective ads.

For Broadcasting 328: Media Advertising, I’ve asked all my students to sign up for Twitter (the subject of a future blog post) and each session includes a less-than-140-character homework assignment. This one: Tweet about an ad you thought was effective and mark it with a #brc328 tag.

So while USA Today had its ever-popular AdMeter ratings, the Web was all a-twitter over various commercials and every pundit had their take, the students provided a different view (in a much-sought-after demographic, no less). I learned the three most important things to them were 1) humor, 2) great visuals, 3) a memorable idea. Most popular campaigns with them were:

1. Bud Light/Budweiser. Biggest buzz surrounded the Bud Light House. Clearly, it represents fantasy fulfillment, but it made people laugh, provided a concrete visual and was a clever execution. Moreover, the product was not only the hero, but dominated the screen. They also liked the Lost parody and the T-Pain/autotune spot — both using humor and playing on popular culture. What all ads had in common: They equated Bud Light with partying and fun. The Budweiser bridge spot also proved popular because of its visual impact. I continue to maintain that it’s unclear whether Budweiser gains market share for the outlay, but if college students are impressed and remember the product, that says something.

2. Doritos. One student explained the simple brilliance of the Playing Nice ad: When the child tells his mother’s suitor: Keep your hands off my momma. Keep your hands off my Doritos, it pretty clearly sets the priorities in his world. Hyperbole? Sure. But it makes its point succinctly. The snappy execution of Dog Collar and the (weird, imho) Tim’s Locker/Samurai spots also scored.

3. Denny’s. When’s the last time anyone even talked about Denny’s? Yet the screaming chicken ads, while potentially annoying, sure captured attention. One student shrewdly noted it highlighted special offers for Free Grand Slam Day and free Grand Slam on your birthday. Simple idea — everyone will want Denny’s breakfasts, so chickens have to work harder — that came across loud and clear.

Other thoughts:

Surprising revelation: Many pundits wrote off the Boost Mobile ad because they assumed using the 1985 Chicago Bears couldn’t sell to young adults. Big disconnect, right? Wrong. Every student in my class claims to know the Super Bowl™ Shuffle, perhaps because of how we recycle pop culture. Thus we know what happens when we assume …

Betty White scores: The Snickers ad earned the most positive buzz among people I follow on Twitter (and topped AdMeter ratings), plus the students loved it too. They may not have known who Abe Vigoda was, but they all knew Betty White from Golden Girls. And once you got past the shock of White being creamed in a backyard football game, you got the concept: Snickers picks you up.

Where’s the outrage?: The young women weren’t terribly offended by the Dodge Charger ad, even though it seemed the most excoriated spot on Twitter. Some saw the overstatement and shrugged it off; others didn’t find it any more offensive than the other messages that regularly bombard us.

My personal favorite?: The Google ad. Why Google would need to advertise (imho: to counter Bing) is a fair question, but in terms of simple storytelling and demonstrating the product’s effectiveness, I loved it. A tale of boy meets girl, with some cool music, the brand as hero and a bit of humor. It won’t affect my use of Google, but as standalone branding, I found it just about pitch-perfect.

So you have the opinions of a couple dozen college students and an older dude who works in communication. What did you think? And will you think of any of these observations next time you try to market to students?

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of truths and trends.

Working in media relations means often hearing from reporters working on trend pieces. It’s nice when it’s a positive piece following established data, like on Friday when I put a local TV news outlet in touch with a blogger/women’s hockey player for a great story on transfers from private to public colleges.

While that story was a good example of a reporter putting a face on a verifiable economy-related trend (we’ve seen a nearly 27 percent increase in transfer apps, many from privates), sometimes reporters are not looking for examples as much as they are validation of a dubious theory.

I had a front-row view of a predetermined piece a few years back. A reporter from the Times-Herald-Record, a downstate paper, called in the wake of 9/11, trying to confirm the conventional wisdom that students were staying closer to home that year. Except … they weren’t. She asked for measure after measure, and in all of them the number of applicants from New York City, Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley were up. Finally she found one measure involving one geographic group that was down 0.1 percent. The resulting story said that applications to our college were down from downstate, and cherry-picked one quote of mine several miles out of context. Sadly I’ve dealt with such lazy reporting more times than I can count, so who knows how many other false stories banked on conventional wisdom have warped views of reality?

We are all cheated when, instead of approaching a story with an open mind — wondering if conventional wisdom is right or wrong — reporters, perhaps feeling pressed for time, only confirm dubious thinking. Maybe they’re handed an angle they feel compelled to reinforce — instead of question, which is the true job of a journalist.

We can wring our hands over the state of journalism from an economic or technological model, but we can’t forget qualitative issues. We need to remember that integrity and open-mindedness are two tenets that define the field … and better serve society. If we don’t care about the quality of journalism, then maybe it’s not worth saving.

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less news than we bargained for.

Earlier today came the official announcement of the end of an era, on Syracuse’s WTVH-5 ceasing news operations and laying off 40 loyal employees. This hits home for me, because 5 is the TV news I’ve watched since I was a young boy, an outlet that helped interest me in journalism and where I had my most influential internship.

The announcement tries to position it as 5’s newsroom merging with that of neighbor and former rival WSTM-3, but it essentially ends an institution with a proud tradition. TV5 was SUNY Oswego grad Al Roker’s first professional weatherman gig. When I interned there, one of the nicest guys was Mike Tirico, now well known as a lead announcer for ABC Sports and ESPN. Other TV5 alumni are working jobs all over the country, thankful for the small-market start.

This news came on the heels of the Rocky Mountain News’ abrupt shuttering by parent company Scripps Howard. If you happen to have 20 minutes to spare, the video on the ghost paper’s home page is an engaging yet devastating documentation of the end of a proud and important paper. And the sad thing is that more TV5s and Rockys will join the club of former journalism outlets.

One part where I disagree with the RMN video, and other pundits on this subject, is in the anger and blame directed at bloggers for the demise of journalism. This is misplaced, albeit trendy: While there are some rogue bloggers trying to supplant journalists, most bloggers (and Twitters and Facebookers) trafficking in current events post links to newspaper articles. It’s just a different distribution method, as I don’t know a single blogger who wants to see newsrooms close, or is working toward putting journalists out of work.

If you’re looking for blame, try corporate boardrooms that have bought up all these journalism outlets and see them as lines on a balance sheet … not as the community resources they are. When Scripps Howard gives up after a mere month of trying to find a buyer for the Rocky Mountain News, when Granite Broadcasting decides to phase out 5’s news function, they are merely redlining an expense to keep shareholders happy. That a community with fewer journalism checks on power is a disservice to everyone, that cities shedding jobs now losing news sources they’ve come to trust like friends is one more kick in the gut … these human costs do not fit into the equation. No film at 11, no special edition, just a fade to black.

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tackling dummies.

On the eve of the Super Bowl™, the annual showcase where advertisers pay just under $3 million per 30-second spot, some group called Common Sense Media announced it somehow logged more than 5,000 ads during 50 NFL games this season and came to a shocking conclusion. I hope you’re sitting down for it.

Here goes: Ads during football games feature lots of sex, violence and alcohol. Should I get the smelling salts?

Are you shocked *SHOCKED*? Not so much? As an advertising professor, I know there are a lot of bad commercials — in strategy and execution, as well as content. But since football games are the most likely programs holding the attention of the young male viewers advertisers covet, why shouldn’t we expect ad agencies chase the lowest common denominator?

The study found erectile dysfunction ads appeared on 40 percent of games and that 46.5 percent of what the group deemed sexual or violent spots — although we don’t know their judging criteria — were network promos for their own shows (CSI: Jacksonville, Law & Order Titillating Crime Unit, etc.). Again, not surprising.

But wait, let’s check those statistics again. The CSM screams that at least one ad during half the commercial breaks contain the above content. OK, most stopsets are four ads, so that’s 1,250 breaks. Half the breaks are 625. Estimating high, let’s say 1.25 ads per break have this kind of content, and round it up to 800. That’s about 16 percent of all commercials which is … not headline-grabbing. And if 46.5 of those are network promos, that means about 8.6 percent [428] would be buyer content CSM finds offensive.

Let’s be serious though: Have you seen the TV programs themselves? Do you think more than 16 percent of prime-time network shows feature violence, sex or alcohol/drugs? Sure. More than 16 percent, I’d say. Just like the football games themselves feature violent collisions, scantily clad cheerleaders and huge beer banners and/or shots of fans consuming alcohol.

What really offends me is this quote from CSM founder and CEO James Steyer (a Stanford law professor), who says he’s talked to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, then adds: We’re starting with the NFL but trust me, we’ll ask our friends at the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission and in Congress to look at the other leagues if they don’t clean up their act.

Um … what? The use of my tax dollars to enforce someone’s standards of decency notwithstanding, Steyer misses the phallic-shaped boat on this one: Who sells advertising? Whose promos represented 46.5 of their naughty content? The TV networks. So why the CSM is pilloring sports leagues — who have less control over advertising content than the networks who sell commercial time — seems fishy.

Or maybe they just know how to find a lazy media horde looking for any football-related news peg. Waving a sports-seeming story about sex and violence in front of reporters on Super Bowl™ week is as sure to get a Pavlovian response as flashing images of half-naked women in front of an amped-up football fan.

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an innocent surveys the vast wasteland.

Since most people I know are immersed in mass media, it’s always interesting to get an outsider’s perspective. This tends to come from my mother. And her view of modern media is not so rosy.

Mom was unable to sleep when 2009 came calling, so she decided to watch what ABC still calls Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve (albeit hosted by Ryan Seacrest). And she was appalled. While most of us are familiar with the wretched dreck that is infotainment, Mom was unprepared with the parade of vacuous so-called celebrities, the tuneless so-called musical performances, the celebrations of excess in a down economy. And seeing a post-stroke Dick Clark was, she said, downright depressing. (She wondered if he’d been replaced with a robot, and not a very good one.)

Moreover, she was repulsed with commentators gushing over the super-expensive Waterford Crystal Ball and its 2,668 crystals, all 12,000 pounds of it, descending for a mere few seconds of visibility. How many of those revelers are out of work or struggling to get by while millions of dollars are lavished on this sphere’s brief appearance? And the gaudy Times Square plastered with wall-to-wall enormous glowing advertisements looked nothing like the district she remembered from living in the city.

I found the phone conversation quite interesting and enlightening. Those of us who have watched the (de-)evolution of modern mass media wonder if it has become a vast wasteland. But those suddenly thrown into the 2009 media landscape *know* that it is.

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