I don’t watch a lot of network TV, preferring to stream stuff on my own schedule. However, I have been watching The Great British Bake-Off series each Sunday on CBC. Last week, I noticed something that I thought was peculiar, and yesterday evening I confirmed it.
The show is scheduled as a 90-minute broadcast. But of that 90 minutes, a full 37 minutes (or about 40%) is commercials. No only that but the ads now come in huge batches — some segments being 5 minutes long!
The CRTC used to have strict rules about the amount of commercial time per hour but my reading of the current regulations suggest there are now “no limits” for TV stations. That is a bizarre way of killing the golden goose because I will no longer watch network CBC and will switch entirely to Gem for their shows which eliminates the need for me to be deluged in commercials.
Do you remember a year or two back when it was impossible to escape the marketing web for fidget spinners. They were everywhere, everyone gave them away. Looking further back, at just about the time I got interested in girls, the hula hoop was king. Well, even before that there was a time when the fad was yo-yos:
Image: Vancouver Sun, 1933/4/19, p.12
Good to see our local shops were keeping up with the trends!
From one of my favourite data vizualization sites comes this singe graphic which, by itself, goes a long way to demonstrating why the current newspaper business model is failing and crashing before our eyes:
Newspapers have lost two-thirds of their advertising revenues ($97 billion down to $31 billion) in just ten years. They need an entirely new model, which I suspect will be subscriptions.
Television, having lost 20% by value of its advertising, is hanging in there, primarily I believe because of innovations in streaming.
It is digital display ads, all those inconvenient bits we see on our phones and computers, that has taken up all the slack and a lot more.
Marketing is an art that requires a solid foundation of science for ultimate success. If you are a marketer and don’t know your market, you have failed at the very core of your business and success will depend on ephemeral luck. None of that is new, of course; Edward Bernays codified it in the 1920s, but it had been well understood for a very long time.
The micro-collection of marketing data — from grocery till receipts to phone use, google searches and online buying, twitter comments, FaceBook likes, and employment patterns, surveys and polls — has become a part of all our lives. To service a mass market efficiently, this enormous breadth of data has to be analyzed, compared, and condensed into marketing packages or groups. That’s part of the art.
The industry in the following image, taken from Visual Capitalist, is of less interest than the breakdown of the market into what the industry considers manageable groups from a marketing perspective. Select the image to get a closer view.
You can already see some of the key words and phrases that marketers will use to aim at a particular segment.
The real point to make here is that every large company in every industry is conducting this kind of detailed research into you and your habits every hour of every day. I recognise the value that some of that brings to some, perhaps all. But I also recognize and have concerns about the dangers that arise when someone else has so much information about you that you can be manipulated to do things you would really rather not do — like vote for Trump, or sacrifice your rights for some petty convenience.
In an effort to promote access to its resources and increase public engagement, the Smithsonian Institution has released 2.8 million images from copyright restrictions on its site, Smithsonian Open Access. Visitors to the website can download and use the files in whatever way they wish without requesting express permission from the organization.
Made available from the institution’s 19 museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo, samplers now have an enormous range of new images to work with.
I have noticed recently that a vast swathe of TV ads use mixed-race families, which helps normalise them in the eyes of the average TV viewer. There are also a good number of gay and lesbian couples in ads these days. It becomes hard to remember when that wasn’t so. Here is a great ad by Guinness from 1995.
1995 is not a long time ago, but Guinness were forced to cancel the ad just before its showing due to the number of complaints and the vicious media backlash they received.
Do you remember Foursquare? I guess it is still around but I haven’t heard of it for quite a while. It was an app that directed you to stores and restaurants close to where you were physically located based on the GPS data supplied by your mobile phone. I was reminded of it when I read this article from Creative Review called Creativity and Programmatic Advertizing. The article might be a bit inside-the-beltway for those not in the advertising and marketing business, but it includes some extraordinary insights into the kind of information databanks that corporation compile about you and me.
First of all, the definition of “programmatic advertizing”:
“Programmatic advertising offers the chance to connect with the right consumer at the right place and time … Programmatic allows you to run segmented work that will appeal to all of your audiences – it then optimises the creative to the version that best suits a media channel’s audience.”
There is nothing new about the first sentence. If you are placing ads on the TV show “Sesame Street” you are no doubt aiming at a different audience than if you place the same ad on “The Batchelor,” for example. Even the second sentence is unoriginal: the ad you place on “The Batchelor” will (or should be) different than the ad you used on “Sesame Street“.
The difference today is the matter of scale. Old campaigns may have had half-a-dozen different sets of copy and images for various market segments. Today, technology has exploded that almost infinitely.
“Unilever’s Axe brand in Brazil … recently used programmatic adverts to serve online viewers with up to 100,000 variations of its Romeo Reboot ad.”
The particular variation you get to see is not random, of course. It is designed to appeal specifically to characteristics about you that the advertiser already knows from your purchase history, demographics, browsing profiles, and a million other data points that you don’t even recognize you are giving away.
I have no doubt that within a few years almost every ad will say something like “Hello Jak, here’s a piece of cookware that we know you’ve been thinking about.” We already get this from Amazon.
I don’t need or want that kind of omniscience from corporations. And it sure makes me think more fondly of those quaint old Foursquare days.
Do you remember a year or two back when it was impossible to escape the marketing web for fidget spinners. They were everywhere, everyone gave them away. Looking back, at just about the time I got interested in girls, the hula hoop was king. Well, even before that there was a time when the fad was yo-yos:
Image: Vancouver Sun, 1933/4/19, p.12
Good to see our local shops were keeping up with the trends!
This is a very brave corporate statement in support of #MeToo, noting that a large number of men need to change their actions and their thinking if we are ever to rid ourselves of a domineering patriarchy.
I’m not dumb enough to think they put this out without massive research in focus groups and elsewhere where they learned that it would not be a fatal mistake to launch such an “attack” on its own target market. However, I am intelligent enough to recognise that Gillette didn’t need to do this, didn’t need to take the risk but did it away because it was the right thing to do.
The risk, of course, comes from the response to the ad by the large number of unreconstructed males, the very same group who perpetuate the problems highlighted in the ad. A wide variety of these responses can be found most easily in the 1,650 comments on the YouTube video.
Some are simply sticking their head in the sand and hoping it will go away: “RIP Gillette”, “Goodbye Gillette”, “buy anything but this product”, “you just lost a customer for life”, “what a bunch of fools”, etc.
Others were more expressive: “it feels like Gillette is calling me a rapist”, “the entire country is sick of feminism,” and the ad is “dripping with contempt for men.”
But the antediluvian rednecks were loudest: “Men get treated like they’re bad just for being a man,” for example. (Compare and contrast: “Nazis get treated like they’re bad just for being Nazis.”) Those responsible for the ad should be “put in camps to be worked to death”. They say the ad is “misogynistic and racist” but is “still not quite gay enough.” “Now we can’t even shave without radical feminist ideology.”
It is “left wing propaganda” paid for by “your liberal masters,” and is “a garbage political narrative.” One even suggested that “big corporation sides with communists in the culture war.”
How can the idea of treating people as people rather than as sexual or dominatable objects be considered “radical”?
Unfortunately, the number and extent of these comments proves that there is a genuine need for more public service messages of this kind.
For decades now, the annual Pirelli calendar has been the most haut of the showing-off-of-bare-breasts-to-sell style of merchandising. New editions were eagerly awaited, fathers passed collections down to their sons, and classic calendars from years past decorated the walls of many garages’ inner sanctums. Now, as we work our way through and beyond the #MeToo issues, Pirelli has decided to change focus — to the photographs rather than the bosoms.
The photographer for this year’s edition is Albert Watson.
Eight years on from Terry Richardson’s 2010 nude blow-out,and a year into the #MeToo era, the 2019 edition of “the cal” features successful women Watson depicts as “pursing her own dreams and passions” in a portfolio titled “dreaming”. The original idea was apparently to tell a story of four sisters living on a ranch in New Mexico and their different paths through life.
Image: Albert Watson
It will be interesting to see if the Pirelli calendar can stand on its own as an art piece.
One of the joys of a full English breakfast are Heinz baked beans. At college, beans on toast were the staple supper whenever money was tight (like always). I doubt there is a larder in England that doesn’t have a can or two on a shelf.
I always assumed that the “Beanz Means Heinz” slogan pre-dated me but that is not so; I was in my late teens when Maurice Drake came up with one of the most durable of advertising lines in 1967. I know this now because of an article in the incomparable Creative Review. From the same place I learn that Selfridge’s department store has made the bean can a feature of its displays this spring.
When I first arrived in Canada, it was a grave disappointment to me to find that cans of Heinz beans in North America were not the same as the English beans I grew up with. However, I am glad to say that the original English flavour is now available here, if you know where to look — SuperValu on Commercial, for example.
For the few years a long time ago in the 1960s when I was a Tube-riding office worker, enduring the forty-minute commute each way, I read a lot of newspapers; my evening solace was the London Evening Standard . It was the right size for a cramped transit car, a tabloid, but with 60 or 70 pages of solid material. I read a ton of theatre, movie, and book reviews, nearly always completed the cryptic crossword, and kept in touch with sports and business. I was very fond of it, and it was one of the things I missed when I came to Canada in the 1970s.
These days, I read online a couple of British papers every day, but I haven’t looked at an online edition of the Standard for a long time. I vaguely remember being disconcerted by the appointment as the Evening Standard’s editor of George Osborne who had been Finance Minister throughout the socialism for the rich, austerity for the poor years of David Cameron’s bitter regime. But then I forgot about it.
Until this morning that is, when I found this incredibly detailed article confirming that Osborne’s business model for the Standard is selling PR as news for a price. The Standard
“has agreed a £3 million deal with six leading commercial companies, including Google and Uber, promising them “money-can’t-buy” positive news and “favourable” comment coverage … The project, called London 2020, is being directed by Osborne. It effectively sweeps away the conventional ethical divide between news and advertising inside the Standard…
As part of the sales pitch at the Evening Standard’s West London offices, would-be partners were told to expect campaigns that will “generate numerous news stories, comment pieces and high-profile backers”.
London 2020 involves six “themed projects” running for two years. These include politicised initiatives on clean air, plastic pollution, schools and workplace tech and a project designed to address London’s housing crisis. The six 2020 “partners” have each paid half a million pounds to head projects that will be sold to Standard readers as “improving London for the benefit of all.”
According to one insider: “What was being offered was clear – theatrically constructed news, showing everything good being done. “
Not everyone was buying into this scheme. “Some companies, including Starbucks, walked away from the Evening Standard’s pitch, rejecting the offer of paying to boost their reputations through tailored news and comment.” Starbuck’s executive was very clear in his rejection: ”
“Buying positive news coverage is PR death…something you might do in Saudi Arabia, but not here. This wasn’t right for us. We do engage in advertorial [a hybrid mix of advertising and editorial] but that’s just marketing. We don’t need to buy our reputation.”