Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Sunday, January 23, 2021

I can’t tell you how surprised I am to find out that ripple, that supposedly generic ghetto libation often referenced in “Sanford and Son” and other 1970s sitcoms, was actually real:

Quite the marketing angle, placing this wine (product) “in the same crowd” as beer, while simultaneously showing upscale consumers imbibing the recreational rotgut. All white people, I might add.

I assume this was the last-gasp attempt to push Ripple-with-a-capital-R, before putting it out of its snub-nose-bottle misery. I’m guessing the modern-day E.&J. Gallo Winery is denying and disowning any association with this bygone beverage.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/23/2011 07:19pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Comedy, Food, TV
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Monday, January 17, 2021

It’s a given that an ad’s purpose is to pry money out of your pocket. So where better for a marketer to place an ad but right in your online wallet?

As banks test new ways to make money and attract customers, they are tucking ads onto the list of recent purchases on consumers’ online bank statements. The charge for your breakfast at McDonald’s, for example, might be followed with an offer for 10 percent cash back on your next meal at the Golden Arches. There’s no need to print a coupon — just click the link, and the chain will recognize your debit card the next time it is swiped.

“The one thing these debit programs have is a significant amount of transaction and behavioral data,” said Mark Johnson, president and chief executive of Loyalty 360, a trade group for marketers. “You’re going to see a big push to make that insight more sellable.”

Behavioral datamining at the source. Might as well direct-deposit your paycheck straight into your favorite retailers’ coffers. Unless you’re laboring under the delusion that you’re making a conscious choice most of the time…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/17/2011 09:19pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Internet
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Monday, January 10, 2021

This week, the people of southern Sudan are voting on a referendum that is fully expected to call for secession from the government in northern Khartoum, resulting in an eventual declaration of independence in July. By then, the Texas-sized (not to mention oil-rich) country hopefully will have decided on a new nation-name:

Some of the other names that have been discussed are Nilotia or Nilotland, which are names derived from the Nile river. Others prefer the Nile Republic, arguing that this name would put the country on the map and build an attractive image around a world-famous asset, the Nile river. The White branch of the river runs through the region and is considered to be the country’s most important geographic feature…

But one problem is that Southern Sudaneses are not the only Nilotic people in Africa (the Nile river waters crosses territories in Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya down to Tanzania). Additionally, not all Southern Sudanese peoples are of Nilotic origin, as there are many ethnic groups in the region with no relationship with the Nile or its ancient civilization whatsoever.

Finally, some express preference for Cushitia or Azania, which are two ethnic and geographic names that have been applied to various parts of sub-Saharan Africa, even if they are in disuse today.

Other contenders retain the parent country name with a qualifier: South or Southern Sudan, or New Sudan. The etymological argument is that “Sudan” means “land of black people” in Arabic — an imported term from the Arab-populated north, implying that the remnant Khartoum-controlled state ought to change its name, and bequeath the more accurate descriptor to the new kid on the African block. (The disadvantage is that, regardless of historical origin, “Sudan” is currently associated with a pariah regime, and so might not be so desirable for a proto-state.) A more distant option is extending the name of the capital city, Juba, to the entire territory.

Corporate naming rights, ala sports stadiums and such, are obviously out of the question. Although considering how poor the country will be, despite the petroleum resources, it wouldn’t be the worst idea. If, say, Archer Daniels Midland got to brand-christen this chunk of the global map, its payment should be in the form of generous food subsidies. Similar for a Nikeland and the resultant oasis of free footwear for all citizens. We can always dream.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/10/2021 09:16pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Political
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Thursday, December 30, 2020

While there’s no shortage of Nigeria-based web domains ending in the standard “.com.ng”, the present shortlink-craving environment is prompting the imminent availability of branding-friendly .ng top-level domains from the African country.

Whilst it will be great for companies within the country to advertise shorter domains and work with an easy suffix, the real value is going to come from internet startups and established internet services that which to turn their company names into verbs.

Oo Nwoye, a Nigerian entrepreneur, spotted the domain registration, proposing that companies like Facebook and Google will move quickly to register domains like Googli.ng and Facebooki.ng.

Good to know that the registration land-rush will predictably proceed. I’m sure that the established Nigerian association with the Internet won’t dissuade anyone from signing up for the online verbi-dot-ng…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/30/2010 10:36pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Internet, True Crime
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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Villainize that Comic Sans all you want, but it may have an educational-retention advantage over prettier typefaces:

[Princeton University] researchers found that, on average, those given the harder-to-read fonts actually recalled 14% more.

They believe that presenting information in a way that is hard to digest means a person has to concentrate more, and this leads to “deeper processing” and then “better retrieval” afterwards. It is an example of the positive effects of what scientists call “disfluency”.

“Disfluency is just a subjective feeling of difficulty associated with any mental task,” explained psychology professor Daniel Oppenheimer, one of the co-authors of the study. “So if something is hard to see or hear, it feels disfluent… We’d found that disfluency led people to think harder about things.

Along with Comic Sans, the other intense-comprehension fonts tested were Bodoni, Haettenschweiler, and Monotype Corsiva. All these were versus the “easy” Arial — admittedly, as generic a baseline font as there is.

The concept makes sense: If you expend more mental energy toward something, you’re likelier to remember it, just due to the effort. The biggest challenge is achieving balance — using a font that’s distinctive enough to stick in memory, but not so stylistically out-there that it’s an indecipherable chore to read.

And while this information delivery method is ideal for receptive learning, it’s not a good idea for other media messaging:

The traditional strategy is to design all of the information you’re presenting in a way that is as clear and easy to read as possible. This makes sense, I think, because most often designers are tasked with delivering information to an audience that is assumed to be at worst hostile and at best indifferent to the message. But this policy may be self-defeating in non-advertising contexts.

So if the message is meant to be rapid-fire and not particularly deep, then clean font design is the way to play it. For deeper mental penetration, the funkier designs work. I’m not sure all advertising needs to adhere to the former; you want the sales pitch to stick, after all. If anything, the “easy” fonts are best applied to video-based delivery, where just getting the exposure counts. Anything meant to be more lasting, like print and archived text, can go with the complex serifs/sans serifs.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/27/2010 05:11pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, Science, Society
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Friday, November 05, 2021

My eyes were wandering this morning as I sipped my tea, and they landed on the coffee shop’s bulletin board. And the first thing I noticed? Of course — a couple of side-by-side fliers for guitar lessons.

Seems like you can’t hang up a corkboard without someone populating it with an offer for six-string musical instruction. There’s no escaping this fixture. I bet I’ve never come across a public bulletin board that didn’t have at least one such ad. Heck, the community pin-up section is a much-recommended venue for promoting a “guitar lesson business” (whatever that is, beyond an out-of-work band member scrounging for a few bucks).

The practice is so commonplace now that I doubt anyone thinks to look anywhere else for this service. It’s straight to the local market or shop to scan the thumbtacked pieces of paper, and call the grooviest-looking guitar guru. Provided his (it’s always “his”, right?) ad has easy-tear-off paper tabs with phone number for convenience. And it’s a given that the “first lesson is free”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/05/2021 08:42pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Society
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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Not accounting for injuries, healthy scratches, or minor-league demotions, on any given gamenight the Atlanta Thrashers could have as many as five black players suited up. In a traditionally white-man’s sport, that’s raised some eyebrows:

The trend is made more unusual because of geography: The City of Atlanta is more than 50 percent black and [has an African-American population total that is] the second largest in the U.S. behind New York; and it’s a population that, traditionally, isn’t watching the Stanley Cup Finals every season.

So the speculation began that this roster was being put together by design, in order for a team struggling to fill seats to reach an untapped audience for hockey. Pass It To Bulis (Mainstream Media: “The blogosphere”) published a well-received post about the trend, noting that by having six players hovering near the NHL level, the Thrashers had roughly 20 percent of the active black players in the NHL.

The Thrashers plead talent-first colorblindness, even though they are maximizing the situation by targeting Atlanta’s black media market.

I’ll point out another National Hockey League city that’s predominately black: Detroit. To date, the Red Wings haven’t gone out of their way to either insert a African-American (or, more probably, African-Canadian) player into their roster, or court the inner-city sports fan. Of course, it’s a different situation: Detroit’s hockey club is a nearly a century old, and — the key thing — has been a consistent winner for a long while now. Still, if any NHL team were to aggressively market itself in this direction, the Wings would be in the prime position to do so.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/28/2010 11:13pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Hockey, Society
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Thanks to DVRs, the Web, and mobile media — along with the overarching shrinking of attention spans — the length of the optimal TV commercial is now down to a mere quarter-minute.

That’s a downward progression from the formerly-standard 30-second spot. Of course, that half-minute supplanted the original full minute of airtime that advertisers wanted/had to buy. So a new standard of 15 seconds was inevitable, regardless of the specific delivery technologies that fostered it.

And talk about hitting the viewer on the neuron level:

Shorter ads can be just as effective as longer ones. Viewers can form new associations — say, knowing about a discount — in a few seconds and then recall that information in just one second, [branding specialist Deborah] Mitchell says. People can’t help soaking up the message.

“When things are working that fast, you can’t tell yourself, ‘No, I’m not going to think about that,’” she says. “Your brain lights up so you don’t have a choice.”

When you’re dealing with such a brief rapid-fire window of opportunity, you’re targeting reaction more than comprehension. That’ll do for now, until our brains catch up and 5-second spots become necessary…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/28/2010 10:34am
Category: Advert./Mktg., Society, TV
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Thursday, October 21, 2021

With a little over two weeks before the premiere of Conan O’Brien‘s new TBS show, the marketing as ramped up, as huge billboards sporting O’Brien’s mug have cropped up all over Manhattan.

He’s permanently wearing a beard these days. It’s a good look for him. Still, I can’t shake my initial impression, from two years ago, of those ginger whiskers:

He looks like a guest-starring warlock character from the old 1960s sitcom “Bewitched”.

Seriously, he should get ahold of the show’s old theme music, wave his arms around at the audience “casting spells”, ham it up with a mock Edwardian English accent, the whole thing. I don’t know if he can actually use these suggestions under WGA rules, but here’s hoping.

So, if one of the first skits on the new talkshow involves Conan doing sitcom-grade magic, you’ll know where he got the idea from. I fully expect to see it on opening night.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/21/2010 11:55pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Celebrity, Comedy, TV
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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

going longer
It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that National Football League coaches are routinely pressured to burn timeouts late in games, just so more TV commercials can be squeezed in:

“At the two-minute warning in every game in the fourth quarter, there are conversations that go by. There’s conversations that take place at the two-minute warning before the first half. But there’s conversations that take place, and it’s the official’s responsibility to give the head coach a status of commercials and TV timeouts,” [Tennessee Titan head coach Jeff] Fisher said. “Yesterday, I was told that they were two short. And they looked at me and smiled, and I said, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you.’ [Referee] Mike Carey came across and said, ‘Here’s the deal. We’re two short.’ And I said, ‘Mike, I can’t help you. I’m trying to get a first down and I’m gonna kneel on it.’”

It’s clearly obtrusive, and it makes for an unsettling in-game situation:

Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about this story — the part that made it so hard to believe at first — is the idea of a television network, and the need for ad revenue, deciding the pace of a game (no matter how awful it may be). That Carey would break away from his responsibility as a supposedly objective arbiter of the on-field action to try and wrangle timeouts from coaches in the name of commercial breaks — well, this is where we truly have gone down the rabbit hole. And judging from Fisher’s comments, this happens all the time.

It’s always pointed out how well-suited football, particularly NFL football, is to television. Clearly-delineated windows of action provide an ideal vehicle for injecting commercial breaks. So it’s disheartening to think that, even with this perfect set-up, the league and its partners (in this case, ESPN) feel the need to tamper with gameplay integrity to jam in even more advertising.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/19/2010 11:21pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Football, TV
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Saturday, October 09, 2021

This TV commercial for Electronic Arts Sports title “NHL 11″ has been out for at least a month now, so I’m surprised no one else has mentioned the questionable imagery at the 0:17 second mark:

That moment features a pixelated headshot-hit against the boards on Chicago Blackhawks player Number 88, who would be Patrick Kane. This, despite the ongoing hand-wringing over concussion injuries in hockey.

I would think that the National Hockey League would raise some red flags over this little detail, in the marketing of a premier piece of merchandise connected with the game. Granted, it’s not like the EA commercial lingers on the hit; but still, it’s a prominent highlight in the ad. Why would they include it, given the sensitivity on the issue? A solid body-check in its place would be just as effective in selling the videogame.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/09/2021 07:30pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Hockey, Videogames
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Tuesday, October 05, 2021

For someone who’s trying to dispel (or is that dis-spell?) rumors of a witchcraft-dabbling past, Delaware Republican candidate for Senate Christine O’Donnell sure comes off as a hypnotism-inducing witch in her first campaign ad:

Leading off with “I’m not a witch”? There is a political precedent, and it’s not one that portends success:

Pundits and political reporters likened the O’Donnell ad’s opening statement to President Richard Nixon’s Watergate-era pronouncement, “I am not a crook.” Commentators are still divided over whether the spot is a rhetorical misfire — or a canny means of defusing the negative image of O’Donnell as a crank candidate with a history of loose-cannon declarations on a wide range of cultural and political issues.

Having to fend off such a ridiculous characterization already puts O’Donnell behind the electoral 8-ball. Although if she somehow pulls out a win in the general election, I’m looking forward to real-life Senate hearings into “Bewitched”-type witchcrafting activities.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/05/2021 11:11pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Politics, TV
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Thursday, September 30, 2021

hide, seek
It’s not like there’s anything unique about an outdoor advertisement being defaced by a sticker decal. But the cameraphoned example above (Flickr-embiggened here) displays a streak of creativity: Pretty model’s face, already fairly anonymous in a fashion-advertising sense, made even more anonymous by blocking out her eyes. For a slapdash application of street art/promotion, it’s well done.

The quasi-conspiratorial Hidden Friends label definitely adds to the effect. It appears to be a loose artists collective, that may or may not have acquired its name from a common Facebook user setting. Applying the phrase offline heightens the almost oxymoronic meaning…

I snapped this photo near the corner of 42nd Street and Madison Avenue. If it was eyecatching enough to make me pause in my usual mid-day running around, then you know it’s got impact.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/30/2010 10:17am
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, Fashion, New Yorkin', Photography, Social Media Online
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Friday, September 24, 2021

I’m detecting a pattern in DirecTV‘s latest television commercials:

Mangled grammar + heavy accents = satellite subscription sales!

Exhibit A is this aptly-nicknamed “Opulence — I Has It” spot:

It seems this silly Russian millionaire with the broken English was the prototype. After that spot debuted, DirecTV applied the same formula to its late-summer-to-fall NFL Sunday Ticket push:

The TV spots, from Deutsch, New York, center on the fact sports fans can enjoy watching their favorite teams no matter where they reside. One ad, “Cheeseheads,” shows a Green Bay Packers fan talking in a Fargo-like accent to a priest on her couch at home… In another ad, a trophy wife from Dallas vents her anger at a local Redskins fan by letting her dog chew up his welcome mat, knock over the flowers and pee on the rug. In still another, a pair of “Masshole” Patriots fans sneer at a local follower of the Dolphins and toss some snow at his door.

Again, all those spots feature characters with exaggerated regional accents: East Texas twangs, Midwestern lilts, New England nasality, etc. It’s a common theme that’s hard to miss.

I can only assume that market research uncovered that distinct speech patterns resonate with prospective customers of higher-end television services. That, or the braintrust at DirecTV likes to make fun of a broad swath of the American population…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/24/2010 04:29pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., TV
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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Here’s one woman’s vision of where the decade-long plotlines in “Mad Men” are headed:

@amychozick: Hope #MadMen runs ’till at least 1969 when Sally Draper will drop acid, burn her bra and join the Weather Underground. #poorsallydraper

Not bad. But, television being television, and based on the medium’s previous depiction of the advertising industry during the ’60s, I couldn’t help but retort with:

@popstat: nah, by ’69 she’ll learn witchcraft, have a daughter named Tabitha, & Don will be played by a different actor #Bewitched

I think January Jones would make a swell Samantha Stephens. And Jon Hamm can be replaced, Darrin-style, by Neil Patrick Harris. Meanwhile, Roger Sterling gets a pizza named after him

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/21/2010 10:34pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Social Media Online, TV
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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Deeming that the phrase “high fructose corn syrup” is too toxic to redeem, the Corn Refiners Association is going for a name change for its prized product, to “corn sugar”.

When trying to decide on a new name, the refiners group surveyed more than 1,200 consumers to see which they liked better. The other options were “corn sweetener” and “corn nectar.”

Corn sugar “best communicates that consumers understand it has the same calories as sugar, the same sweetness as sugar and about the same fructose level,” said trade group president Audrae Erickson. The decision to offer manufacturers an alternative name to use was prompted by consumers, not consumer product makers, but she acknowledged approval from the FDA would have a “spillover benefit” for food companies.

My initial thought: Does the corn industry really think that the “syrup” part of HFCS is the problem? People are shying away from sweeteners and the empty calories they bring, regardless of origin. I don’t see how calling it “sugar” (or “nectar” or whatever) is going to help.

Although I commend the trade group for coming up with a kernel of an idea for product rehabilitation. (Hey, when I write a corny post, I go all the way.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/14/2010 10:49pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Food
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Sunday, September 05, 2021

As much as I like to believe that I’m immune to alcoholic beverage marketing — chiefly though my distaste for the infinite iterations of beer commercials — the truth is that I’m a sucker for any product packaging in this space that even hints of uniqueness.

Exhibit A would be the image accompanying this post. The Kraken Rum comes in a distinctive bottle design, with those two neck-level rounded handles. I’m guessing that’s reminiscent of this spirit’s theme: The kraken, a mythical multi-legged sea monster. The label is lovingly crafted as an oldtime woodcut placard. All of this is a good tie-together for a dark spiced rum, a traditional ancient mariner type of booze that’ll knock you out with 94 proof of potency.

Of course, I bought it as soon as I saw it on the liquor store shelf. The relatively cheap $20 pricetag didn’t hurt, but really, it was the kitschy-ness that had me reaching for it. The flavor and drinkability is practically secondary.

Although my sampling found that a basic Kraken and Coke makes for a fine libation. So I guess I lucked out that my consumerist impulse netted me a quality addition to my booze collection.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/05/2021 08:31pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, Food
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Friday, September 03, 2021

You know all those perma-stick decals lurking under the lid of every new Windows PC laptop computer? Despite their garishness, they’re there for a reason:

A.M.D.’s research shows that consumers hate the stickers (duh). But they’re not going away, for one simple reason: There’s big money involved. Intel, Microsoft, Skype and whoever else is represented by the stickers actually pay the computer companies for the billboard space. That’s why H.P., for example, would tolerate gumming up its laptops’ good looks with crass ads. (Apple refuses to put Intel stickers on its computers, even though there’s Intel inside. In doing so, it leaves millions of dollars a year on the table.)

I actually remember one of these labels serving a useful purpose on one of my old Wintel notebooks. The details are fuzzy, but the bullet-point specs printed on this particular sticker were handy enough that I appreciated having the machine’s technical details constantly within sight. The alternative would have been to dive through a bunch of Windows menus and submenus to gather the same basic information. That’s why I never removed it for the 3-4 years I used the thing.

But that was just one single stickie. I’m surprised it took so long for third-party providers to exploit that front-and-center computer-user territory (is it really on anybody’s “laptop” anymore?) as advertising space. The next step is for computermakers to substitute that bare metal or plastic into LED or some other dynamic-display material, and rotate through a neverending parade of ads for the life of the machine…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/03/2021 02:11pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Tech
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Sunday, August 22, 2021

no license
Early last week, I received a couple of unsolicited offers for revenue generation from the content I’ve generated on the Web:

- D2, a newspaper-insert magazine-lette akin to the New York Times’ T Magazine, requested permission to use a long-ago photo I took of the former American Apparel billboard adspace on Manhattan’s Houston Street (a crop of which is featured above).

- The same day, someone at vectorTrap asked to place a text ad on the index page of this blog. Something to do with wireless phone service, I think.

The common thread? Both offers flaked out. I might have scared them off. I asked for a relatively hefty sum from vectorTrap (“hefty” if you consider that I’m sure these outfits usually pay out only a couple of bucks to more naive bloggers), while I told D2 that I’d expect accreditation and some sort of compensation. I didn’t hear back from either after relaying that information. I know D2′s request was time-sensitive, hinging on the production deadline for their next issue, so I assume they moved on.

No big loss, although I’d gladly take the money/credit if it was offered up. Part of my ulterior motive was to avoid going out of my way for such non-spam inquiries, so in that sense, I got what I wanted. The micro-monetization of user-generated Web content doesn’t seem well-structured for substantial cash outlays.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/22/2010 06:07pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin', Photography
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Monday, August 16, 2021

It’s been the mass medium of choice for the past half-century-plus. So it’s only appropriate that TV is now showing its age, demographically:

The median age for viewers at [CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox] is now 51. The broadcasters’ audience has aged at twice the rate of the general population during the past two decades, according to a new report. It’s a quiet trend with a real impact on the way they do business.

“It should be a concern, but it doesn’t seem to be a concern at the moment,” said Steve Sternberg, who wrote the report for Baseline Inc., an information source for the film and TV industries that is owned by The New York Times Co. “You don’t want to have CBS, ABC and NBC all having median ages in their mid-50s.”

The risk in having a rapidly aging audience is the networks becoming less relevant to advertisers, the backbone of their business. Increasingly, that’s a way of thinking that itself is getting old…

A young audience has always been the holy grail for networks, but that’s changing, said Alan Wurtzel, research chief at NBC. Not only are more older viewers available, advertisers are starting to recognize that they spend money and are receptive to their messages.

“But that’s changing” has been the supposed trend for the past couple of decades now. When the chips are down, though, advertisers still skew their pitches to the younger end of the spectrum. The fact is, there’s a cachet in tailoring marketing messages to young adults, because it appeals to older demos and their aspirations to identify themselves as “still young” or “not that old”. That’s not going to change — in fact, I’ve argued that it’s a societal trend that’s only going to get more pronounced.

That doesn’t mean that television will be part of that persistent process. The aging of the boob tube audience is a testament to how fragmented the media landscape has become, especially to youngsters who never experienced a world of TV as the primary media outlet. Without that force-of-habit viewership, we are indeed seeing a fundamental shift in media consumption:

Does TV begin a decade-long transformation, similar to what radio went through in the 1950s, with various shows and other programming migrating online, leaving behind… What? Infomercials and pharmaceutical ads on the boob tube, branding it as something that only “old people” watch?

I think that question, which I asked only a little over a year ago, has been answered by these numbers. Welcome to the end of the Television Age.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/16/2010 11:35pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Society, TV
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Sunday, August 15, 2021

I don’t listen to enough radio to give much of a damn about the medium. But one trend has me puzzled: What’s with applying identity-like brandnames to individual stations?

Many radio station names are basically mnemonic devices for remembering the call letters — stations like KROQ in Los Angeles (“K-Rock”) or New York’s WHTZ (“W-Hits”) — and some even manage to turn the mnemonic into a brand, as did San Francisco’s KLLC, known as “Alice,” a name that goes beyond the call letters to effectively evoke its “chick rock” brand identity as well as referencing Lewis Carroll’s famous Alice (their in-studio webcam is called the “Looking Glass”) and the lyrics of “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane (“Go ask Alice…”).

A growing trend, I think, is that more and more radio stations are beginning to realize that there’s no law requiring them to be named after their call letters, so you get stations like San Francisco’s KSAN calling themselves “The Bone,” a name related more to their hard classic rock format and brand identity than their call letters (which, typically, just relate to the local area). When a station has an evocative name, it has more than just call letters or a handy way to remember the call letters — it has a brand. And since radio is now such a competitive big media business, brands are more important than ever. So The Bone’s listeners are called “Boneheads” and KFOG’s are called “Fogheads,” and all kinds of promotion is done playing-off the names.

The local New York examples that come to mind: The Breeze 107.1 (hardly unique, as I’m betting there are a few hundred easy listening stations across the land that use the same name); The Peak 107.1 (Adult Album Alternative format, whatever that’s supposed to be); and The Wolf 94.3 (upstate-oriented country music). The trend is probably more prevalent on non-music format stations, chiefly news and talk.

Music stations are so homogenized, with the same songs on virtual repeat for days/months/years, that some kind of station-based branding is the only way to build listener loyalty. What makes it unique is how it’s applied strictly on the local level — by necessity, but still. Television networks do the same thing, especially when they’re niche (Spike TV, Cooking Channel, etc.); but they have the additional advantage of exclusive content to distinguish themselves. With radio, outside of format restrictions, the same song can be heard on a range of stations.

The big constraint in communicating these brands: They’re always accompanied by the station frequency. That’s another necessity, because the goal is to have people know where to tune in. But it’s an awkward pitch. To me, it sounds goofy: “Music festival sponsored by one-oh-two-point-five The Sound!”.

But again, radio is largely dead to me, so maybe I’m immune to this marketing angle. The charms of station-monikering escape me.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/15/2010 09:06pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Radio
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