Advertising personalization and TV over IP

Recently, I decided to take a look at the CBS show, Jericho, which was slated to be dropped, but was reinstated by fan support.

First stop was the free version of the pilot on the iTunes store. Perfect download, no problem watching and controls that actually worked. Plus I could watch it on my iPhone.

Next stop, where I thought I’d be able to watch it on my mac. No such luck- since CBS engineered their site with the “RealPlayer” which has been referred to as one of the worst pieces of software ever. The mac plugin wasn’t even available the first time I tried. So, lucky for me, CBS was going to rerun the series in order over the summer. Tivo here I come. The second showing ended up being a fast forward through at least a half dozen episodes- and no where near as good as the seven minute Sopranos. Then, CBS skipped a week (or Tivo balked)- and I went back to the CBS site again. Somehow, I got it to stutter through a painful hour and a half viewing of a 45 minute show- complete with the same 2 commercials over and over. Then- JACKPOT- seems CBS put up another site: which runs fine on a mac -problem solved. I’m in Jericho heaven- even though the play controls still aren’t near as good as Quicktime, and the resume doesn’t work at all.CBS error messages

But, here is the thing: CBS has the perfect opportunity to build a relationship with me. I’m coming back over and over to their site, to spend “quality time” with their show. They could ask as few as 1 or 2 questions in return for providing each episode on demand for free and start customizing the commercials. Right now, I get one for Gerbers baby food (I’m a single male over 40 with no intentions of breeding) and for AT&T Wireless- to whom I’m already stuck with, since I have an iPhone. Irrelevant ads, presented by the most relevant personalized delivery system.

CBS network timeout messageIf you are a marketer and are buying online ad delivery, you should be asking about how the message is being targeted and what kind of feedback mechanism is provided. Since I can’t fast forward through the ads easily (remember, the controls of “innertube” suck) all you are doing is annoying me, instead of having a chance to build a real relationship. In an age of earned media, that annoyance factor could actually contribute to negative brand equity- distaste for your brand from the intrusiveness and repetitiveness of your ad delivery.

Advertising online can be the most powerful tool yet, but, like all power, used without care- it can backfire royally.

Google bows out, or is regrouping on paid video over IP?

Either television owners should be breathing a  big sigh of relief, or they should be making funeral arrangements for their obsolete business model. In a quiet announcement, Google is backing out of the paid video service- either because they expect all video to be ad supported via their new pop-up ad technology, or that video will be supported by advertisers subsidies, much like it is over the air now. Here was the piece on Electronista that clued us into this news:

Electronista | Google quietly kills paid video service
Sidestepping a public announcement, Google has informed customers individually of its decision to stop its paid video services later this week. In its mass e-mail, the company has explained that “to improve all Google services,” download-to-own and download-to-rent videos purchased through Google Video will become unavailable as of August 15th. In addition to stopping new purchases, this will disable videos already bought in the past. To compensate Google is providing refunds, plus a $2 bonus to be spent at Google Checkout within the next 60 days.

The service never grabbed the public limelight, having been quickly dwarfed by the company’s own YouTube acquisition, and better-publicized competitors such as Amazon Unbox and the Apple iTunes Store. In its last days, clips sold through Google Video became limited to episodes of Charlie Rose. It is unclear whether the decision is directly related Google’s increasing involvement with Apple, which has Google co-founder Eric Schmidt on its board of directors, and has integrated YouTube into the iPhone and Apple TV.

No matter what, the delivery of television/video programs as we know it is in for a huge change. The Google/Apple connection on the iPhone and Apple TV may be foreboding for a new business alliance. Combine Googles ability to target advertising, with Apple ability to build an interface and payment system with the iTunes store- and you could have TV 2.0 coming to a plethora of digital devices soon.

Apple misses opportunity to show off mad video skills

Steve Jobs presenting at Apple Special Event from videoI don’t have time to sit and watch Steve Jobs introduce the new iMac and iLife while tethered to my high speed connection- but, man, this would be great to watchon my iPhone on the plane to Chicago tomorrow, so I bop on over to Apple’s site and there it is:

Apple - QuickTime - Apple Special Event - August 2007
Watch Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveil the all-new, redesigned iMac and demo new features in iLife 08, iWork 08, and .Mac. See the video-on-demand event right here, exclusively in QuickTime and MPEG-4.Voiceover users click here to listen to keynote address.

Apple Special Event DisclaimerThe problem- even with Quicktime Pro, I can’t save it to my desktop because they have it as streaming media… oops. Went to the iTunes store- and it’s not there either.

Either you fully embrace the idea of video anywhere anytime or you don’t.

Lesson to marketers: make your video, commercial, training film, industrial video available to anyone, to watch anytime if you want to get maximum bang for your marketing dollar.

Salim Ismail and David Esrati talk Web 3.0

Salim Ismail and David Esrati discuss web 3.0 at Webcontent 2007

Salim Ismail and David Esrati, originally uploaded by jough [formerly jough].

One of the things we teach our clients to do is set up a google alert on key terms- so this morning, I got notified of this Flickr photo of me- talking to Salim Ismail (I’m the one with hair on the right) about web 3.0 and how advertising money will drive the Open ID standard, so advertisers can verify their ads are being delivered to the right people.
As always, it’s money that will drive the development of new technology, and the old John Wanamaker adage of “I know half my advertising budget is wasted, I just don’t know which half” is going to be solved with Web 3.0 and IPTV- real soon.
As another note: Sally Hogshead talked about “Portable equity” in her book Radical Careering- in fact it’s chapter 5 of the book- and on Salim’s business card- I saw the perfect example of this: he has his e-mail at yahoo-inc, but, for a site- it’s his own blog: empowering his voice outside of the corporate Yahoo! channel- the ultimate example of portable equity that I’ve seen.
Of course, he’s also the “Head of Brickhouse” which is their new “skunkworks” type lab for launching new products and technologies- so he should be the first to practice what he preaches.
Is your company ready to step past ownership of your ideas- and trust you to share what’s appropriate with the whole world?

TV was never free- it's only the way we pay that will change

If anyone thought you were getting something for nothing when you flipped on the tube- or still thinks that- they are an idiot. TV has always cost consumers money- even PBS has its fund drives. Broadcast made you sit through the same stupid commercials, multiple times- even though you weren’t ever going to buy feminine hygiene products (guys) or Cruex (girls). It cost you time- and wasted advertisers money, delivering their message to people who would never buy their products. I like watching beer ads- even though I’ll never drink one- but, that’s ’cause I’m in advertising.

Cable and satellite is another matter- everyone who gets their TV delivered this way pays- and in the US, it’s about 80% of us. So, we’re already paying for the programming- but how much are we paying for stuff we don’t want? A lot. That’s why TV via the Internet is the future- only the programs you want- with only the ads you want- so why ABC and ESPN are coming up with this stuff- it’s a case of too little, too late:

Marketplace: Putting ‘a word from our sponsor’ on demand
LISA NAPOLI: ABC and ESPN said today they’re going to offer some of their programs to Cox Cable free, on demand.

There’s a catch. They’re going to disable the fast forward button on your digital video recorder so that you have to watch the ads.

Don’t panic. This is only a test for the moment.

But media professor Ken Wilbur of the Marshall School of Business says if you’re gonna watch a TV show whenever you want, the industry has to get creative in order to make money.

KEN WILBUR: Deals are being done virtually on a daily basis. And I can’t remember a time when the television industry was in a more dynamic state of change.

TV watchers are forcing that change by recording programs and skipping the ads. But why would anyone pay for a digital video recorder if you can’t do that?

Analyst Brahm Eiley of Convergence Consulting says there doesn’t appear to be a win-win solution to this problem.

BRAHM EILEY: I mean, something has to give one way or another. These shows exist on advertising revenue. And if they’re not going to see that type of advertising revenue, then the cost of making these shows are going to be passed on to the consumer .

In other words, ultimately viewers will pay somehow — either with their time or by having to pay for shows that might otherwise be free.

As I said- there is no such thing as “free”- and the failure to understand that is what’s making this whole shift so entertaining. Why can’t we just admit it- and pay for what we want? And have our message subsidized directly by advertisers who want to reach us individually (1 to 1 marketing)- and have feedback- instead of wasting their money “Broadcasting” to people who will never buy their product.

TiVo still doesn't get it.

I own a TiVo- and I’ve used a Time Warner DVR- and that was all it took-instant understanding of why the TiVo experience is better- but, a Pepsi Challenge type campaign isn’t enough to change TiVo’s fortunes- TiVo has to do a lot more to gain market share- and the new ad campaign from Kaplan Thaler Group isn’t the answer.

From an article in the New York Times- TiVo is going to spend $15 million to try to change their fortune- and, unfortunately, they aren’t going to get it right (more on that following the excerpt)…

Avoiding Ads With TiVo? TiVo Strikes Back - New York Times
But how do you make a TiVo-proof commercial for TiVo? Executives at TiVo hope the answer is to hire an agency known for broad humor, talking animals and chirpy jingles, then approve a campaign centered on a silly (though eye-catching) visual device, meant to symbolize how much TiVo differs from generic DVRs.

The campaign, now under way, carries the theme “My TiVo gets me.” The effort, created by the Kaplan Thaler Group in New York, includes commercials on television and radio and in movie theaters, a pair of Web sites at and, (Next Wave: note- both link to the same site- and it’s all FLASH) contests, blog postings and promotional events in large markets like Boston, New York and San Francisco.

The device at the heart of the campaign is to bring to life the antenna atop the head of the “TiVo man,” the character shaped like a TV set that has personified the brand. The ads feature TiVo customers who sport antennas on their heads, which — thanks to the Stan Winston visual effects studio — seem as much a part of them as the remote controls they use to navigate the entertainment superhighway.

The campaign, with a budget estimated at more than $15 million, arrives as TiVo recorders and other DVRs loom larger than ever on the advertising landscape. Nielsen Media Research estimates that 17.2 percent of American households own DVRs and, according to an analysis by MediaPost Communications, penetration in television markets across the country ranges from 5.7 percent in Marquette, Mich., to 26.5 percent in Dallas-Fort Worth.

The proliferation of DVRs means that viewers are increasingly watching TV programs on a delayed basis rather than live. That in turn is leading Nielsen to rework its longtime methods for measuring viewership to count people who play back a program within one, three or seven days after it ran.

And because so many DVR owners fast-forward through spots rather than watch them, Nielsen plans to start providing by the end of May ratings for commercials in addition to its traditional program ratings. (TiVo has started supplying its own data to advertising agencies, showing second-by-second viewing patterns among its subscribers.)

TiVo, as the brand of DVR that has become synonymous with the category, is benefiting from the growing popularity of digital recording in the same way that brands like Band-Aid, Coke, Kleenex, Post-it, Q-tips and Xerox took advantage of similar synonym status in their markets.

But TiVo’s gains in subscribers have slowed significantly as more operators of cable TV systems sell their own — usually unbranded — DVR services.

As of Jan. 31, TiVo reported 4.4 million subscribers, 1.73 million who owned TiVo brand recorders and 2.7 million who had TiVo service through their DirecTV satellite service. The total was only 1.8 percent higher than the 4.36 million subscribers that TiVo had on the same day in 2006.

By contrast, subscriptions grew 130.8 percent from 2004 to 2005, and grew 45.3 percent from 2005 to 2006. (Subscribers who own TiVos pay $19.95 a month for one-year subscriptions, or $8.31 a month if they subscribe for three years.)

“We have spent the better part of the last year coming up with a list of significant differentiated features,” said Thomas S. Rogers, president and chief executive at TiVo in Alviso, Calif.

“This is a way to reintroduce TiVo the brand” in a way that will persuade consumers “to say: ‘I’m not interested in the generic DVR. I want the TiVo experience,’ ” he added.

Among the TiVo features described in the campaign are movie downloads through a partnership with, KidZone parental controls, the ability to share video clips with other TiVo subscribers and the ability of TiVo to “learn” which shows subscribers want

So-  how should TiVo solve their problems?

Well, first, hire an agency that really understands new media- back in November I went to a diversity trade fair and KTG was there- they had 52 pages indexed in Google- we had  260. Today those numbers are: KTG 47 and 447 for The Next Wave. To still have the idea that large geographical markets are the answer is missing the point of the Long Tail.

TiVo has experimented with funny ads before- to disastrous results. There was one about jock itch with Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott on the golf course. They’ve also been through a ton of agencies- including some of the best. Here is an example of early work attributed to Goodby Silverstein - a truly great ad agency:
And the sad thing is- this spot still works- no need to run new, different- or more entertaining ads- the problem comes down to a few things:

  • TiVo really should be partnered with Apple computer. The combination of the Apple brand which stands for ease of use- with TiVo which is the leader in ease of use would be magical. It would also be the right combination for recording and downloading- something Apple TV is sorely missing.
  • The market for TiVo is the early adopters- opinion leaders. TiVo blew it with their late intro of a HD TiVo- and then insulted it’s user base by charging exorbitant prices. It should be an advantage to be a current loyal customer- not a reason to be taken advantage of. I’ve almost switched to Time Warner just to get a HD box without having to take out a second mortgage.
  • TiVo’s true value hasn’t really been tapped- one of IPTV style direct delivery of targeted ads. Because they haven’t been able to get critical mass- and haven’t worked their customer relationships well enough- they may have missed this boat as well. A partnership with Nielsen to supply a TiVo to every metered home on a trial basis would have done more for better numbers- and sampling- than any campaign ever would.

TiVo hasn’t got a chance of surviving solo at this point. When they lost their partnership with DirectTV- and failed to work with the cable companies- they sealed their fate. TiVo can offer all kinds of new services- but, the reality is- they are a one trick pony- without a chance of winning the IPTV race- unless they partner with the calvary- be it Apple, Amazon, Nielsen, Cable companies, Telcos, or someone with the horses to get market penetration by taking the box as a loss leader- and the subscription fees as well - and focus on the community building relationship that TiVo has the sole rights to own in the DVR/IPTV competition.

Remember- it’s never about the technology, it’s about the content and the community- and that’s what TiVo should be placing all their effort behind.