The Humpty-Dumpty Problem: Can Addressable TV Pick Up The Pieces?

21 08 2008

UPDATE 8/24: Steve Smith has a fantastic interview with Mitch Oscar about addressable TV. Read it here.

Once upon a time, a massive audience cheerfully gathered in front of a box of blinking lights during prime-time. They watched CBS, NBC, or ABC.

They had their wallets out. They were ready to buy. And life was good.

Today it’s less fairy tale and more nightmare. I call it The Humpty-Dumpty Problem: audiences have fragmented into a zillion micro-audiences, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s media buyers can’t put Humpty back together again.

Or can they?

An Addressable TV Breakthrough?

For some time now, our beloved idiot box has been slowly growing a brain. The promise? Everything we love about advertising online — optimization, the ability to test multiple versions of the same creative, and improved ROI — will come soon to a TV near you.

It’s all about hitting the target, even when it looks impossible. Check out this basketball trick shot video and you’ll see what I mean.

Today there’s a piece of big news from Joe Mandese in Media Post that I’ll bet most people will miss.

Visible World (has created) an open standard that will enable advertisers and agencies to easily and seamlessly integrate any method they use to target TV viewers, and then have those ads served to specific dayparts, programming genres, geographic zones, or even individual households. The breakthrough (is an) application (that) allows advertisers to utilize any source of data they use to define their consumer targets, and then have those ads served to any platform capable of delivering targeted TV advertising, including network television, local broadcast, local cable, broadband, as well as household-specific addressable television outlets.”

… As part of the announcement, which is being made public today, Visible World is disclosing deals with both Acxiom and Experian, two of the leading sources of data used by agencies to target consumers across media, but Walpert-Levy says the system will easily port data from virtually any source an advertiser or agency prefers, including their own proprietary consumer databases, and that the system is capable of serving TV ads to as “granular” a target as an advertiser can define and as a media platform can distribute.”

Addressability has always been possible.

What’s exciting here is the idea that it might actually become practical.

If Visible World’s solution works as advertised, we may have a shot at solving our Humpty-Dumpty Problem after all.

P.S. The basketball video is fun, which is why I posted it first. The below presentation from Visible World’s Tara Walpert Levy is a bit more practical, especially if you’ve never seen a Visible World demo.


CPG Marketing In A Recession

20 08 2008

Just got back from a few days off visiting friends in Portland, Oregon and am struggling to catch up. I don’t have a second to spare today, and probably neither do you.

In spite of this, I suggest you drop everything and invest 3 minutes you don’t have with this Ad Age video.

It’s Kraft Foods CMO Mary Beth West talking about marketing in a recession. And here’s why it’s worth your time:

  • No buzzwords, BS or self-promotion
  • Real-world examples
  • Practical, actionable advice

Very refreshing to hear a grown-up talk sense. I loved this, and I think you will too.

Watch it here.

Must-Read: CPG and Paid Search

17 08 2008

Ad Age has a must-read article on new research by Publicis Groupe’s MediaVest and Yahoo. It’s a pretty strong endorsement of paid search. But, since paid search basically means “Google” I’m not exactly how it benefits Yahoo. Am I alone in this?

In any case, the full article is here:


  • Sponsored text ads boosted awareness 160%
  • 20% more likely to have positive perception of brands in the top paid-search position
  • 30% more likely to consider purchasing a product when the brand is at the top of paid-search results
  • “Challenger” brands benefit more than category leaders from being at the top of both paid and natural search results.

“The implication is if you’re present, your awareness goes up, and if you’re not present, your awareness goes down,” said Matt Wilburn, senior category director for CPG at Yahoo.

What Do CPG Companies Currently Spend on Paid Search?

EMarketer estimates that CPG companies allocate only ~$140M-$180M (15-20%) of their total online spending to search. CPG search outlay amounts to only about 1% of the $16.4 billion the industry spent on other media last year.

What It Didn’t Test: Open Questions

  • Do paid-search ads increase offline sales? (That’s the subject of an upcoming third phase of the research)
  • Do strong rankings in organic search compensate for not appearing in paid search?

I’ll confess I was a late convert to paid search for my company’s brands. But, I’ve come around: the cost-benefit is too strong to ignore. Plus Google’s content network has been a strong performer.

Predictions? Will this article move more CPG companies to adopt paid search, or not?

The Ultimate Social Media Diagram?

14 08 2008

UPDATE 8/16/2008: Some people have been asking for a bigger version of this illustration. I don’t have it in a vector format because I hacked it together out of JPEGs in Photoshop. But here’s the biggest, cleanest version I have. Feel free to use and share however you’d like, but please link people back here. Thanks!

Download BIG version of “social media mess”

Hmm. Could the chart below be the most insightful social media diagram ever?


Not just because, like all good illustrations, it steals liberally from the best thinking in the business.

Or because it has more circles and charts and connections than any I’ve ever seen.

Or even because it contains popular words, concepts and logos.

I like it is because I think it’s pretty accurate.

  • It’s an unholy, incomprehensible mess.
  • It’s anxiety-provoking
  • The more earnest you are about trying to understand it, the more your head will hurt.
  • It’s more fun to look at than a diagram about broadcast TV.
  • Despite all of the above, it still looks oddly important.
  • And no matter how hard you look, you can’t really see any money in there.

I’m not putting down anybody for trying to make sense of social media. On the contrary, it’s important work.

And, a lot of the component charts actually do go a long way to clarifying what social media actually means. To see a great collection of these, go visit Marc Meyer’s well-done blog here.

What I really AM saying is that when media fragments into this many teeny pieces, it’s confusing as hell. It’s The Humpty-Dumpty Problem.

Which pieces matter? Which can we ignore? How can we re-aggregate the important pieces into a marketplace that’s large enough to be meaningful and profitable for a mass advertiser?

And, on a very practical basis, how many individual conversations can we afford to support? How many can we hope to conduct without making each one so shallow that it’s hugely unsatisfying for everyone?

I don’t have the answers, yet.

If I did, I’d put up a simpler diagram.

P.S. I just came across an appropriate quote by Edgar Degas: “”What a delightful thing is the conversation of specialists! One understands absolutely nothing and it’s charming.”  Apparently even in 1870s Paris, there were social media consultants 🙂

View Vs. Do And The New YouTube Ad Format

13 08 2008

It’s no secret that banner ads have distressingly low click-through rates.

The question is, why?

Allow me to share a pet theory of mine that I call “View Vs. Do”.

TV is a “view” medium: “I’ve got some time to kill, let’s see what’s on”.

The Internet is a “do” medium: “I’ll check the scores on ESPN, return some emails, and post to my blog.”

At my company, we’ve often seen higher click-throughs and actions taken from random banner ads on CNN than from banner ads on places where we instintively know our consumers want to do something. I believe it’s because when people are task-focused, even an interesting ad gets ignored because “it’s not what I’m doing right now”.

If that’s true, the ideal web audience may be one that’s sitting on its keester not really doing anything but clicking around looking for interesting stuff. And that may be the YouTube audience.

That’s why I’m excited about the new YouTube ad format. If it works the way I think it will, I’d expect to see greater engagement and higher click-throughs from video ads here than almost anywhere else. This may be one of the web’s first significant “view” destinations, with TV-like receptivity to good ads.

Let’s hope so. We need sight, sound and motion to sell.

11 Habits Of Knuckleheaded Leaders

13 08 2008

The higher you rise in your organization, the thinner the air gets. And the less feedback you will get, unless you explicitly ask for it.

How will you know if you’re slipping into becoming a knucklehead? This may help.

David Silverman has a great post on the Harvard Business Publishing site about what makes a lousy boss. You don’t have any of these 11 bad habits, do you?

Of course not. Neither does anyone else 🙂

P.S. My favorite: ” If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. You don’t have to explain. They just need to make it “better.” If you give them too much direction, how will they learn? “

P.P.S. The YouTube clip is from the movie “Brazil” by Terry Gilliam. If you have not yet seen this, it’s important that you drop everything now and go get it. Total brilliance.


Private-Label Pirates And Digital Defenses

12 08 2008

In days of yore, marketers built brands and retailers built shelves.

It was good business. Everybody prospered.

Then, without so much as a raising of the skull and crossbones, private label brands appeared on the horizon to steal market share.

Private label could offer customers cheaper prices, and no wonder. There was no need to invest in building the category.No need to spend a nickel on marketing, which is typically one of the three top expenses on a CPG company’s income statement.

All they had to do was sail in and take their share of the business.

Ol’ Roy, Wal-Mart’s store brand of dog food, bit Purina where it hurts and became the top-selling brand of dog food in the United States.

Recently, Unilever sold its All, Snuggle, Wisk, Surf and Sunlight brands to global private equity firm Vestar Capital Partners for $1.08 billion in cash. Why? They were so squeezed between market leader P&G and private label that they felt they couldn’t compete — even though their laundry care unit resulted in $1 billion in turnover for the company last year.

And Brandweek reports Unilever is not alone:

“ConAgra (… is) selling its Pemmican beef jerky brand to Brazil-based Marfrig Group (…) Kraft (…) relieved itself of lackluster-performing Post cereal line (…) The bigger companies are now looking to shed any brand that isn’t the leader in their category. No. 1: thumbs up. No. 2: ditch,” said Chris Bragas, CEO of Eastwest Marketing Group, New York, which specializes in strategic planning, advertising and partnership marketing.”

And now Ad Age reports that private-label is taking the next step and breaking down the walls between retailers. Safeway is taking its organic house brand, O Organics, and better-for-you brand, Eating Right, into competitive grocery-chains nationwide this fall.

This leaves CPG marketers with two choices. Cry in our rum. Or find ways to fight back.

How To Fight Back Against Private Label

Innovation, Innovation, Innovation. One way to beat the pirates: build faster brands.

According to Advertising Age, product categories in more than 20 countries show a private-label market that is 56% higher where there is low innovation activity compared with categories with many new products

Where are you supposed to find all these new ideas? Go online. Listen to blogs. Build a strong online loyalty program. Create digital panels and get engaged with your consumers.

Yes, the pirates can do these same things. Our job as protectors of our brands is to do it better, faster and smarter. It’s do-or-die.

Go Crazy. And Go More Digital. Let’s face it. There’s no rational reason to buy a name-brand product if the cheaper store-brand product is just as good.

If you can’t be better (for legal or cost-of-goods reasons), forget rational. Go crazy, and go digital.

According to Brandweek, P&G has been able to maintain the upper edge over competitors like Unilever while fighting off private label by continuously seeking innovation in product launches. Earlier this month, for example, P&G announced it was introducing a line of laundry and fabric softeners, called Tide and Downy Total Care, made from beauty care products.

Why not go a step further? P&G can create online fashion and beauty shows to support the launch, enlist celebrities to pitch, and build social communities around these ideas.

Shake things up.

Be More Facebook and Less Faceless. Private-label brands count on brands being boring, rational and predictable. They count on our brands being managed by bankers and not entrepreneurs.

Maybe what you need are a few more loose cannons rolling around on your decks. Challenge your agencies to think crazier. Ask social networks and online ad networks what they could do if there were no rules.

The commanders of the private-label ships are the same execs who used to manage your brands. They know your playbook as well as you do. Burn it, and keep them off guard.

Get Closer To Your Customers. Private-label brands know people like saving money. But since they’re not investing, they can’t learn the kinds of things that you can learn. What are the emotional reasons people need a pasta sauce, or a frozen dinner, or a haircolor?

What do your customers want to do? Who do they want to be? What do they dream? Can you offer them branded online tools that make their lives more interesting, more fun, less dull?

Leave the Parrots to the Pirates. The world doesn’t need more “me-too” products. By the time you copy a successful innovation, the pirates will be there too.

How else can CPG brands do battle against private-label, and win? What do you think?