Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Evolution of Advertising and Pop Culture

Note prior to publishing:  Holy cow, this ended up longer than I ever dreamed.  Feel free to skim it for exciting words (and then feel free to be vastly disappointed at the lack of exciting words or content).

I've been thinking a lot lately on how we get our TV.  We all know that TV advertising is how shows make money, how they stay on the air and pay their actors.  But as print media has declined and online media has exploded, things are changing.  So, today I write about that.

I love a good commercial, which is to say I hate 95% of the commercials on the air at any given time.  But the funny or clever ones are always a blast to see.  The problem with actually liking some commercials is that I have switched to a DVR-heavy TV watching pattern and as such I end up missing many commercials.  This is not uncommon - although broadcast media still has the highest reach of all advertising platforms, in 2012 live TV viewing decreased 2% while DVR viewing increased 8% (source).  And that number changes significantly when broken down by age group - older audiences are largely more likely to watch live TV than younger audiences.

This brought me to a panic moment.  Could we be in the beginning stages of a TV meltdown?  We saw it with newspapers, magazines, and bookstores.  Twenty years ago, nobody seriously believed we'd see such drastic changes in those industries.  Is it possible that TV is next?  Could DVR recording kill the material from which is records?

Maybe, but probably not.  Everything I have read leads me to believe that what we are seeing is an evolution in advertising, but that scheduled TV will remain largely unchanged.

I think it is natural for advertisers to look at the DVR fast-forward button as their natural nemesis.  In 2004, 75% of "large national advertisers" said that they were planning on cutting back their televised advertising as a direct result of DVR usage (source).

An amazing report (same as cited above) from Boston University disagrees on the nemesis approach.  It concludes that fast forwarding through commercials can still create "brand memory" even with a 95% reduction in frames and no audio - as long as the brand information or product is centered on the screen.  The report calls out how even though DVR fast-forwarding has a negative impact on historical advertising outcomes, making changes to the method of advertising can still return positive results.  It cites how commercials used to base brand focus (ie, putting the brand on the screen) based on movement on the screen, since it was proven to draw the consumers focus the spot of the movement.  The report suggests that simply modifying brand placement with the expectation of the commercial being forwarded through can return good results.  (Seriously, the report was very cool).

This document was published in 2008.  Surely if this was effective, it would have started to spread to advertising, right?  To find out, I watched a few commercials with the report in mind.  It's amazed me how well advertisers are putting the brand or product on the screen.  One example was a Subway ad.  The actors were talking about staying fit for Halloween, and then were magically appearing with various costume suggestions.  While the actors moved around and changed outfits, there was cup in front of them.  It was subtle - certainly the brand was never the focus - but at all times it had "SUBWAY" near the middle of the screen.  Of the other 6 commercials I watched, 3 of them had a deliberate brand presence near or at the center of the screen for the entire commercial.  1 was a car commercial, and the other two featured Samuel L. Jackson and Tina Fey.  And if you guessed that their faces were framed in the middle of the screen the whole time, you were right!  I guess they are counting on "star power" to grab your attention instead of the logo or product.

Reading that report has had an unexpected side effect:  I'm finding myself so very much more aware of branding and technique in commercials.  As I see a commercial, I'm evaluating where they are putting the brand, when they have people or objects moving about on the screen to draw my eye, and how companies are approaching their sale.  It seems perfume and cars are the most stuck in the past.

Embedding:  Big enough to be parodied

Moving away from commercials and into a different form of advertising - embedded marketing. Obviously, this has been around for a long time.  I love watching old game shows, and I always laugh as the host moves into a commercial for whatever product sponsored the show.  That was the early commercial - "brought to you by..."  As time moved on, embedded advertising became a bit more subtle and commercials took up the banner of "blatant advertising".  But they have always been a thing.

These days, embedded advertising is a big piece of the puzzle in a show making money.  With advertising rates declining, there has been a squeeze on marginal shows.  By marginal, I mean either aging shows with declining viewership or shows produced on a tight margin.  Two examples of that are Bones (declining) and Rizzoli & Isles (tight margin).  Those shows
Bones ratings in decline

I recently watched an episode of each of these shows.  And each had an example of extreme product placement.  On Bones, Booth and Brennan were driving down the road when a loud noise filled the car.  Booth asked what it was, and Brennan explained how the all-new Prius has lane assist, with warnings to keep you from wandering from your lane!  On Rizzoli & Isles, when arriving on a crime scene, Rizzoli's brother had them all get into a car (I forget which one) and toured the crime scene while featuring the smooth ride and rear-view camera.  It was hilarious.  Click here to see a great compilation of product placement.  What's funny is that while some of the placements in that video are pretty blunt, I know that there are a couple of those that I would not have noticed while watching.  The car ones in particular; when the car comes screeching to a halt immediately in front of the camera and boldly frames the car logo front and center.  Speaking of cars, the next time you are watching TV I want you to pay close attention if somebody in your favorite show is driving and they show him/her in an interior shot.  I think you might be surprised at how many times optional features of that car somehow make it into the frame or narrative.

In fact, I could use a cool, refreshing Coke right now

There's nothing with product placement/embedded advertising.  If it keeps shows I like on the air, I'm all for it.  Then I read about a company called Three Lions Entertainment (source) and other like it.  According to the sourced article, they seek to develop "specials and reality programming to push products, which tends to be easier than telling scripted showrunners to write a story about Pepsi or Justin Timberlake's new album.  The company will also create web-based content that also feature the products".  Even better, the investor behind that company is also involved in Relativity Media (movie studio), controls Soho House (private member's club primarily for those in arts and media), and has a controlling interest in Artists Group International (concert promotion).

The future of embedded advertising - a show or reality program on TV that start members of the Soho House (or their clients) while featuring a new movie by Relativity Media and playing songs from whatever AGI artist is starting their national tour.  And of course you'll know about this new TV show by it's targeted flood of web advertising.  Truly a case of the tail wagging the dog.

So, that's a bunch of stuff, and I didn't even cover a few of the things I found.  But I find all of this fascinating, the way our content is delivered.  One thing is for sure, in 10 years this will all have evolved again, and I'll be writing about how different things are again.  Or I'll be dead.  Either way.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Music From A Work Day, Finale

A quick final recap of the music.

  • 28% of the artists were present on both day, but they accounted for 50% of the songs.
    • Pandora correctly identified artists I liked (or I did) and steered their music to me.
  • 60% of the artists were present only on the second day, but only 40% of the songs.
    • Pandora presented a wide range of artists at one song per pop.
  • The order of preference for style:  Comedy Song (35.19%), Radio-ish (31.48%), Folk-y and Musical (12.96% each) and Comedy Routine (7.41%)
    • No surprises here.
  • Radio-ish is the category with the most new stuff and with the most songs/artists from the first day that did not repeat.
    • Also worth noting:  I imagine this category has the widest selection of artist/song available
  • Comedy Song had the most artists/songs that appeared on both days.
  • Musicals were only on the second day, which is odd considering the channel was seeded with a musical and a comedy album.

I see that the things I listened all they way to or liked greatly influenced what I heard.  Comedy songs were steady, while I heard the greatest variety of Radio-ish songs.  I believe this is because those are the songs I would end early or dislike the most.  I still got a large number of them - but they were different as Pandora tried to figure out what I like.  It's odd that they were at all; I can only imagine that I selected a few as favorites early on and altered the underlying algorithm.

I don't know if any of that is interesting to anybody out there.  I just know that I find it interesting.

As I was trying to see how my music has changed, I started thinking about how our choices and behaviors online/on TV/on DVR/on our phones influences the things we see.  This led into a long couple days of web searches about the value of live advertising and how native advertising is influencing everything from ads to videos online to what shows are getting picked up every year on TV.  So I'll write about that next.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Music From a Work Day, Part 2

Moar music!

Friday, I recorded the Pandora music as planned.  It ended up being a particularly good day for it, since I was covering for our early shift and had a bit more time to listen to music than I would consider normal.  Fair warning, it's long AND I ramble at the end with additional commentary.  So, without further ado, my list:

  • Matchbox Twenty - Back 2 Good
  • Louis CK - Fat Guy Problems (comedy routine)
  • Everclear - Wonderful
  • Killers - Romeo And Juliet
  • Tenacious D - Kickapoo
  • Wicked Original Broadway Cast - Dancing Through Life
  •  Simon & Garfunkel - Kathy's Song
  • Flight of the Conchords - Inner City Pressure
  • Beatles - Let It Be
  • All-American Rejects - Swing, Swing
  • John Mulaney - Female Heist/Delta Airlines (comedy routine)
  • Simon & Garfunkel - Sounds Of Silence (live)
  • Anthem Lights - Best of 2012 Pop Mash-Up
  • Flight of the Conchords - Carol Brown
  • All-American Rejects - Swing, Swing
  • The Offspring - Trust In You
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - Teach Your Children
  • Louis CK - Time Machine (comedy routine)
  • Mandy Moore - When Will My Life Begin (Tangled)
  • Les Miserables Original Broadway Cast - Finale
  • Tom Lehrer (hooray) - The Elements (comedy song)
  • Weird Al Yankovic - Virus Alert
  • Cake - Mahna, Mahna
  • John Denver - Rocky Mountain High (unplugged, live)
  • Miss Saigon Original Broadway Cast - I'd Give My Life For You
  • Rent Original Broadway Cast - Without You
  • Shrek Original Broadway Cast - This Is Our Story
  • Tom Lehrer - When You Are Old And Grey (comedy song) 
  • Mary Poppins Motion Picture Soundtrack - Chim Chim Cher-E
  • Simon & Garfunkel - Only Living Boy In New York
  • John Denver - Rocky Mountain High
  • Steven Lynch - D&D (comedy song)
  • Christina Perri - Human
  • Weird Al Yankovic - Polka Power
  • Fun - We Are Young
 Whew.  Congratulations for making it this far, I wish I could award an achievement for making it through that list.  Oh wait, I can!

As I've been working on this, I've been reading up a bit on targeted advertising.  It is an interesting thing, very interesting.  I am vaguely planning to write about that once I finish wrapping my head around the comparison between lists.

Now, I can't begin to wrap my head around this without some analysis.  If you work with me, you probably saw that coming.  I'll get working on that post it in Part 3.  Which may actually talk about something interesting, rather than list music I listen to.

But probably not.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Music From a Work Day, Part 1

Music From a Work Day, Part 1

One of the (many) things I love about my job is that when I begin to work on a project, I can throw on some headphones and listen to Pandora (or Spotify/Grooveshark/AOL Radio) while I dig in on anything that requires serious thinking.  While I certainly have a predilection for Pandora, the others are always a viable alternative.  About a year ago, I randomly took note of the songs that came up during the day.  Today I was boxing up my desk and I found that list. Being the ever-curious type, I have decided to make a comparison.  I shall write the songs that I heard then, and tomorrow I will take note of the songs I hear and post them here.  Then I'll try to see how my evolving music selections on Pandora have altered the music I am being presented with.

I am listening to the same channel today that I did then - it's titled "Musical/Comedy" and was seeded with the Wicked Original Broadway Cast album and Weird Al Yankovic.  Please note that on my list, for comedy entries I seem to have mostly recorded "Comedy Song/Routine" rather than what it actually was.  Too bad.

On a slightly unrelated note about preferences influencing what you hear (and yes, this whole thing may eventually devolve into observations on how our choices affect the advertising we see), months ago I briefly listed to a Spanish Music channel.  For about an hour.  One time, one day.  Since then, every time Pandora gives me an ad featuring alcohol, it is in Spanish.  Only alcohol, but it appears to be ALL the alcohol ads.  The one I hear the most is for Bud Light with....ugh....CLAMATO?  How the heck did that happen?  On to the list!

  • Sarah McLachlan - Fallen (live)                                      
  • Tom Lehrer - Comedy Song
  • Simon and Garfunkel - Sound of Silence (live)
  • Glee Cast - Animal
  • Steven Lynch - Comedy Song
  • Flight of the Conchords - Business Time
  • Taylor Swift - Today Was a Fairy Tale
  • Weird Al - When I Was Your Age
  • John Mulaney - Comedy Routine
  • Tenacious D - Wonderboy
  • Tom Lehrer - The Elements (Comedy)
  • Steven Lynch - Comedy Song
  • The Beatles - Come Together/Dear Prudence
  • Tripod - Comedy Song
  • John Lennon - Imagine
  • Glee Cast - Silly Love Song
  • Tenacious D - Dude
  • Weird Al - Ode to a Superhero

Well, that is me, if to nobody else.  My first impression would be that I hear more musicals and soundtracks, possibly a bit less comedy, with about the same amount of radio junk.  I'll tell you after tomorrow.

By the way....have you heard of Tom Lehrer?  He is a comedy/satirist/mathematician who was active from 1945 to the early 70s.  I love his stuff.  It's all horribly dated, of course, but entertaining.  It is interesting to hear his often comedic songs that occasionally feature him interacting with his audience before the song begins.  I have heard him casually refer to the death of Winston Churchill, the push to teach different numerical bases instead of base 10, World War 2, and many other things.

Then he sings about poisoning pigeons in the park.  You should give him a try for something very different.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fall TV is Here!

Fall TV is here!  Happy Premiere Week!  Here's my take on all that is new and my Prime time scheduler.

New Comedies:

Selfie:  This pilot is available on Hulu, and I watched it.  I wanted to love it,but I didn't.  The vomiting in the first 5 minutes of the show set it off on the wrong foot.  The problem is, I still want to like it and I'm still going to watch it.  John Cho is so charming.  I like that it is (loosely) based on My Fair Lady.  And while I get why it is named 'Selfie' - and this doesn't really go down in the Cougar Town hall of fame for bad titles, the title conveys no heart - and is much more Eliza than Henry.  And all I want is Henry.  Despite the title, I'm going to DVR it.

A to Z:  This pilot is available on Hulu, and I watched it.  I wanted to love it, but I didn't - almost, but not quite.   It does seem to be HIMYM 2.0, with all the whimsy, romance, destiny talk and the cast: Cristin Miloti and a pretty good Ted Mosby impersonator in Ben Feldman.  Stu (the Barney character) is icky, gross and yucky - without NPHs charm, and is just distracting from the likable leads.  I can't wait to meet the Marshall and Lily.  DVR, watch live if I can.

Marry Me:  From Happy Endings Creator - it seems if you liked Happy Endings, you'll like this, they are very akin.  Acomedy about the challenges of pairing up - not so original, but I like the stars, Ken Marino and Casey Wilson.  DVR it.

Manhatten Love Story:  The gimmick is ...we get to hear the thoughts of two people dating!  We get to hear (via voiceover) the subtext of every weird encounter, every awkward silence, every everything.  I'm not sure I want to hear all that, and the commercials don't even seem that funny - plus- I'm not in love with the leads - Analeigh Tipton and Jake McDorman.  It seems a snoozefest for me.  Skip it.

Black-ish:  Now this one IS going in the Cougar Town bad title hall-of-fame.  I hate the title.  Is it offensive, a little?  Would we be okay with a show called 'White-ish' with an all white cast?  (Thanks to E for that pondering moment) - Um. no.  As far as the show goes though, it looks funny.  I think Anthony Anderson is really funny.  I'm not the target demographic for this show, but I'd watch it if it was on.  Flipping Channels night only.

Bad Judge: I like Kate Walsh.  I like her in Shonda Rhimes dramas.  When I first saw the ads for this one, I thought it WAS a drama, but its not.  Half hour comedy.  Which makes me go, hmmm.  She's an irresponsible, but unconventionally effective judge.  Hmm.  This show has been horribly reviewed, but they apparently changed up the pilot a lot and it is maybe better?  One of the changes was a recast of a character to Ryan Hansen from Veronica Mars - they may be on the right track. I'm mostly curious.  DVRing the pilot.

The McCarthys: This show has an interesting cast.  Laurie Metcalf, Joey McIntyre and Tyler Ritter.  A New Jersey family obsessed with sports, with a newly 'out' gay son.  None of that seems to say 'this is a show for me!' And - its been reviewed as sub-par material for sensational Laurie Metcalf.  I'm still intrigued.  I'll try one, if its on.  Flipping channels night only.

Cristela:  A comedienne gets her very own show! (Has that ever happened successfully?)  A semi-autobiographical tale about a legal intern balancing work and family in Texas.  I have no idea if Cristela Alonzo is funny.  She might be, but this show is on Friday, and I just haven't seen anything to interest me here.  Skip it.

Mulaney:  A comedian gets his very own show!  (Has this ever...wait, a few of these have really worked).  It even opens with a stand up segment (ala Seinfeld).  In real life he was an SNL writer, in this fictional world, he is newly hired to write for a game show.  I have no idea if John Mulaney is funny, but I'm more interested in this premise.  I would watch it if it was on.  Flipping channels night only.

New Dramas:

Madam Secretary:  I watched the pilot last night.  Tea Leoni is great!  The show is still figuring itself out.  It was too much for me to have the side 'Company' is out to kill people sub-plot.  The rest of the show was good.  Please find more to do with Bebe Neuwirth.  Please.  She is amazing.  I love me some Tim Daly.  I will watch it while it figures itself out. Its a work in progress, and I have hope.   DVRing

Gotham:  Super hero origin story!  I had little interest in Marvels Agents of SHIELD, but I have a small interest in this.  Love Ben McKenzie (I heart The O.C.) and do have some curiosity about the introduction of well known villains, before they were the bad guys.  The look of it is intriguing as well.  I never stay long at the overly complex, involved stories - but, if I can tell whats going on, I might stay at this party.  DVR the pilot.

Scorpion:  Four super high IQ techies, a super high IQ kid and his mom who translates life to them all while cracking some tough government cases.  Its The Big Bang Theory meets CSI (wait - its the REAL CSI-Cyber).  Reviews say the pilot is dumb, but the show may be worth watching.  I love when American Idol alums succeed.  DVRing

Jane the Virgin:  The second entry in the Cougar Town hall of fame for bad titles.  I hate this title, because it makes me not want to watch the show.  And after forcing myself to watch the trailer and read up on it - it could be a good show...but wait the premise is horrible too.  A faithful Latina is mistakenly inseminated during an OBGYN checkup.  Its a remake of a Venezuelan hit ( a la Ugly Betty).  Word on the street is they seem to be respectful of faith and chaste choices - this is good.  It is well reviewed overall.   It looks well-made and solid.  The premise seems eye-roll worthy, but it could be good.  I MAY DVR the pilot.

State of Affairs:  Her off-screen antics and Diva reputation aside, I like Katherine Heigl and I welcome her return to TV.  I'm not sure this is the greatest vehicle for it.  She is a CIA Analyst whose main role is to brief the President (played by the amazing Alfre Woodard).  I like a female President, one review I read said the pilot had a Shonda Rhimes-worthy twist, which makes me curious.  The reviews of this show are all over the place, many hate it, some really like it.  I'm going to try it out.  DVRing

The Flash:  I don't watch Arrow, from which this is a spin off, but its supposed to be good.  Good enough for me to watch?  Probably not, as my super hero quota is met with Gotham.  I enjoyed Grant Gustin (Barry Allen aka The Flash) on Glee.  The buzz is good.  If this is your type of thing, this is probably very watchable.  I'm going to Skip It.

Forever:  Every time Dr Henry Morgan dies, he's reborn naked in a nearby body of water.  He's therefore been around Forever and will be around Forever.  Get it?  He uses his extensive medical knowledge from being around so long to solve crimes.  Ioan Gruffudd is the lead.  I loved him in Amazing Grace.   Because of him alone, I want to try this out, but I'm not sure the dying won't grow old quickly.  DVR the pilot.

Red Band Society:  I saw this pilot when it aired last week.  The Fault In Our Stars meets the Breakfast Club as seriously ill, but talented and witty kids live together in a hospital ward.  Octavia Spencer, Dave Annable and Griffin Gluck are the grown ups running the place and influencing them.  I had middling expectations, but ended up loving the pilot, where I laughed outloud and got a little weepy.  I read a review that called this - where the Glee kids go when they get sick.  It does have Glee feel to it.  And I like Glee.  I loved this pilot.  DVRing.  Watch Live, if I can.

The Mysteries of Laura:  Debra Messing is better than this.  She has to be.  So is Josh Lucas. This show is YUCK.  I watched the pilot last week.  She's a cop, who is also a MOM (of twin terror boys).  Whoa.  That's tricky.   I like Debra Messing, and the show is trying to utilize her comedy chops and be a true dramedy, but it doesn't work.  Its very blah.  Based on its huge numbers, it might be around for awhile.  I'm hoping it was just because there was nothing else on and when real competition hits this week - it will go where bad dramas go to die.  Sorry - I would like to see her on TV in anything better.  Skip it.  (Though I watched the pilot!)

Stalker:  CBS is really trying to keep the Criminal Minds crowd around for another hour.  The show is about LAPD's Threat Assessment Unit - who handles all the - yup you guessed it 'Stalking" cases.  I love me some Dylan McDermott.  And Maggie Q.  But, do we really need another reason to high light violence against women (well, mostly women - I understand).  Its The Following's Kevin Williamson (Not the Dawsons Creek one, as he seems to have 2 distinct sides to him) as creator.  Skip it.

How to Get Away With Murder:  Shonda Rhimes has a whole night now - and I'm going to watch all three hours.  A legal thriller, starring the always amazing Viola Davis as a high-powered attorney and law professor.  Yup.  She's got the Medical Drama, The White House one - of course a legal one was next.  I'm sure it will be all 'dark and twisty' and I'm sure I will love it.  DVRing and watch Live if I can.

Gracepoint:  A remake of Broadchurch, a British crime drama about the death of a young boy in a small town and the detectives trying to figure it out.  Its one mystery for the whole 10 episode season.  They say the ending is different, though.  Maybe a different killer?  It is intriguing and stars Anna Gunn and David Tennant (in the same role from Broadchurch).  If you like British shows, this may be for you.  I have a small interest it.   I plan to DVR the whole series and see if I ever get to binge watching it.  DVR

Constantine:  Matt Ryan stars as this comic-book TV anti-hero?  Apparently, he has no super powers or secret identity and is not really a good person, and has been sentenced to hell?  I'm not sure I get it.  But, the star is very easy on the eyes.  If you know who comic book Constantine is, I'm sure this show is for you.  For those who know whats going on, its been well reviewed.  I don't know whats going on.  Skip it.

NCIS: New Orleans:  I've never watched any of the NCISes.  But, I could maybe watch Scott Bakula as a Navy vet.  I love that he's been doing the press circuit saying he's never done a procedural.  Mostly because, Quantum Leap was SO one of the founding fathers of procedurals.  Same formula, different local and intriguing cast.  DVR the pilot.

Seems my DVR is going to be filled up quick.  Only time will tell what I actually make time to watch.  20 years ago today Friends premiered. 15 years ago today The West Wing premiered.  10 years ago today Veronica Mars and Lost premiered.  It seems to be a charmed day for premieres. I feel old.  Happy Premiere Week!