Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cable Operators Secure At The Top Of The Video Food Chain?

It’s been a good couple of months for cable companies. Comcast is buying NBC; TW Cable’s stock is having a nice run and Cablevision’s profits tripled in the third quarter.

What’s most striking is how effectively they are leading their enormous customer base into the new world of on-demand, time-shifted television viewing. VOD usage is showing double-digit month-over-month growth and DVR subscriptions are soaring. (Driven much by cable’s efforts, more than 1/3 of US TV households now subscribe to DVR.)

The DVR story is actually quite compelling in its own right. Maligned by the advertising and programming communities for its ad-skipping capabilities as recently as a few months ago, DVRs are now seen as a powerful ally, adding millions of viewers (now tracked by Nielsen), giving some faltering shows new life and adding much needed ad revenue to the networks. That’s right – adding ad revenue- because, it now turns out, only 50% of DVR users actually skip the commercials.

In a recent blog post, Mark Cubin wrote with religious fervor about the enormous opportunities created by DVR technology:

"Do you not realize that the DVR is the one device that can save all things traditional and holy to your business and stock price? That the DVR is what every internet based TV delivery device or service aims to be when they grow up? That the more powerful and feature rich that you allow DVRs to become, the sooner your customers, the people that pay an average of what, $80 dollars a month to consume your content, will realize that all the capabilities that the internet pundits predict that the future of the internet will offer, are available today for the DVR ?"

The cable operators are making every move to be sure they control their own destiny as video consumption habits change with breathtaking speed and dozens of competitors eye the ultimate prize of the living room TV screen. (Including, now, game consoles like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.)

Comcast and TW Cable's still somewhat nebulous TV Everywhere plan has captured the attention and imagination of the media blogosphere. Through an online authentication system, TV Everywhere will provide cable customers access to premium cable programming online anytime they want.

Like VOD and DVR, TV Everywhere could become another enormously successful product that keeps the cable companies firmly in front of consumer viewing behavior and at the top of the video distribution food chain.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

User Generated Ad Campaigns Come of Age

Jim Farley, Ford's VP of Marketing, gave a thoroughly revealing and insightful presentation at the JD Power Automotive Marketing Conference last month.

He was particularly forthcoming about Ford’s marketing strategy, showing examples from more than a dozen initiatives across every budget range and media platform. What he seemed most excited about were the relatively low cost, user generated/crowd sourcing campaigns like the Fiesta Movement introduced earlier in the year to support the launch of the 2011 Fiesta.

He showed various clips submitted by users "that didn't cost a dime" but more importantly provided buzz, customer feedback and probably a treasure trove of ideas for future campaigns.

The initiative has generated hundreds of submissions like the one above.  Regarding performance, Ford provided the following stats to Mashable:
  • 4.3 million+YouTube views thus far
  • 500,000+ Flickr views
  • 3 million+ Twitter impression
  • 50,000 interested potential customers, 97% of which don’t own a Ford currently.
Just last week, an article in iMedia colorfully described mass collaboration as the single biggest marketing trend.

"It's no secret ... that user-generated content was a sucker punch to the jaw of the marketing world over the past several years. A fundamental shift has now occurred in which brands have become a conversation -- and audiences have just as much of a say in the shape of that dialogue as marketing directors and agency copywriters."

And while a marketer with billions to spend was waxing poetic about the power of customer collaboration, Etsy, an online crafts marketplace with a loyal and growing following, ran a contest inviting users to submit 30-second commercials. The contest and subsequent submissions got the attention of none other than Bob Garfield at Ad Age, who was effusive in his praise and stark in his prediction of a new order.

"The results are positively remarkable. The 10 semi-finalists are as a group better thought-out and realized than any 10 random commercial running on TV anywhere in the world. And a whole lot more charming," Garfield said.

Is there any doubt that user generated ad campaigns have come of age?