When Baltimore, Md. city councilman William "Pete" Welch's proposed to fight Baltimore's budget crunch and keep the city's fire companies open by offering ad space on fire engines, he heard almost immediately from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.). PETA fired off a letter to Welch, asking to ads on one or more of the city's fire trucks.
PETA wrote Welch on Saturday the 20th, and PETA spokesperson Shakira Croce told us there was no response from Welch yet. There was from Adweek’s David Kiefaber, who wrote yesterday that "I'll give PETA this much: They reached out to the right guy if they're interested in keeping Baltimore citizens firing.” Kiefaber grumped that Welch is best known for living off of his mother’s name (she held the council seat before him), and firing a gun into the ground in an argument over $40.
The Baltimore Business Journal reports that three of the city’s 55 fire companies, to close a budget gap. "Cities in the future aren't going to be able to have these budgets alone," Welch said. "They are going to have to form partnerships with business."
PETA’s Ashley Byrne, director of campaigns, wrote the letter, and she describes the ad this way:
“Our ‘Vegans Are Hot! Free Smokin'-Hot Recipes: PETA.org’ advertisement, featuring a sexy woman showing off her vegan physique, will drive Baltimore residents to PETA's heart-healthy vegan recipes that will keep them firing on all cylinders…Our ad will help your city keep all of its fire departments up and running while passing along a lifesaving message: By going vegan, Baltimore residents can save animals, protect their health, and help themselves become ‘hot stuff’!”
“Stupid idea,” wrote Kiefaber, who lives in Baltimore. But However quirky Welch is, or overbearing PETA can be in its messaging, sponsorship and outdoor advertising have saved high school gymnasiums and school buses. The idea is worth considering, and will spare Baltimore's firefighters from having to pose for another of those "Firefighter Hunks" calendars to stay in operation.
Nickelodeon at its upfront presentation held yesterday at Lincoln Center unveiled plans for an unprecedented 650 new episodes—the most in the network’s history—of both brand-new content and returning hits (like “SpongeBob Squarepants” and “iCarly”).
As Adweek describes, “Nick pulled out all the stops at a svelte hour-long show,” but said as well that the network needed to demonstrate innovation. Nickelodeon “made headlines with a 19% year-over-year slip in November,” which parent company Viacom tried to blame on poor math by the Nielsen Company.
Nonsense, countered Nielsen, and the broadcast industry at large. The slip came down to 1) aging inventory and too many reruns; 2) stronger and more new offerings by rivals Disney and the Cartoon Network; 3) possibly losing young viewers to gaming and over-the-top (OTT) content; and 4) upset parents. (One parent we reached for this article, who is also in charge of programming for a midwestern cable provider, described Nickelodon content as “nasty” compared to its early days.)
Nickelodeon may be onto something, when it blames OTT content. It looms particularly large in on-demand viewing. When Comcast’s Xfinity On Demand service tallied its most-watched series for 2011, Nickelodeon took two of the three top-requested kids series, with “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Dora the Explorer,” and all three of the most-requested non-animated series by kids aged 7 and up, with “iCarly,” “Big Time Rush” and “Victorious.” But neither Disney nor Cartoon Network suffered the same plummet, and their offerings too are available on demand. Right alongside them in the Xfinity tallies are Disney Channel with “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” PBS’s Sprout with “Barney” and “Sesame St.,” and the Cartoon Network winning the top three spots in animated series among kids 7+. Every one of those three series debuted in 2010, where Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob” debuted in 1999, and “Dora” in 2000.
Nickelodeon seems to have moved beyond trying to blame multiscreen viewing and bad math by Nielsen. "Nickelodeon has no intention of letting the recent ratings slip slow down our creative momentum," said Viacom’s Nickelodeon Group President Cyma Zarghami at the upfront. “Kids have a ferocious appetite for new content and it is our intention to serve them more, innovative work than ever before.” Among other new offerings:
- “The Legend of Korra,” based on a character from the film “Avatar”
- A stop-motion SpongeBob SquarePants Christmas special
- Several original primetime TV movies
- “Hollywood Heights,” based on a teenager’s life as she achieves singing fame
- An animated series based on the Raving Rabbids video games It has not tossed out “SpongeBob” or “Fairly OddParents,” but, will roll them into a portfolio of more than 300 new animated episodes in 2012
Comedy Central ratings are up 10% among millennial men 18 to 34 years old, reports The New York Times. That is because the network speaks to young men the way they perceive themselves: defined more by humor than by music (as the baby boomers were) or sports.
Comedy Central commissioned a survey through Nielsen Entertainment Television, with additional data by the research firm Sachs Insights. Nielsen surveyed 2,000 individuals, and Sachs conducted focus groups in 19 cities. Both surveys targeted “millennials,” which the companies defined as adults born in 1981 or later.
Among their findings:
- 83% described their sense of humor as crucial to their self definition
- 74% view funny people as more popular
- 58% have shared comedic videos
- 63% would rather be stuck in an elevator with a comedian than with a star athlete
MTV Network EVP of Research Tanya Giles told the NYT “We called them Comedy Natives…one big takeaway is that unlike previous generations, humor, and not music, is their No. 1 form of self-expression.” MTV Network is the parent company of Comedy Central.
Comedy Central claims a median viewer age of 37.1, but 46% of its viewership is between 18 and 34, for which the network is able to charge advertiser premiums. In addition to delivering that key demographic, Comedy Central takes top honors in advertiser satisfaction, according to market researchers Advertiser Perceptions. In its 2011 Advertiser Perceptions Highest Rated Media Brand awards, Comedy Central won among cable networks, for advertiser satisfaction. The network claims a median age of 37.1, with 46% of its demographic aged 18-34, 59% of it male, tuning into “South Park” and “The Daily Show.”
American Media Inc.’s (AMI) Reality Weekly is off to a struggling start, reports Adweek.
The $1.79 consumer book hit newsstands in late December, with 350,000 copies and hopes to reach 1 million after six weeks. Six weeks has come and gone, and distribution is just 500,000 with sales around 100,000. The February 20 issue had just six ad pages, versus the 10 to 12 AMI had aimed for, and 14 for its inaugural issue
AMI’s EVP for consumer marketing acknowledged a “learning curve…we need to establish what are those dozen or so cover subjects that can carry the sale.”
None can blame AMI for not trying to get it right the first time. AMI owns Star, OK! and The National Enquirer, and conducted 40 market studies before even arriving at a cover price. At the time of its launch, AMI estimated a cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) of $45. No word as to any surveys about market demand for the title.
Part of Reality Week's challenge is its niche, describes Jack Hanrahan of the newsletter CircMatters. While People has its choice of whom to put on its cover, Reality Weekly is forced to draw from a narrow pool and make news whether it exists or not. A hard niche can serve a title well: Soap Opera Digest and Soap Opera Weekly enjoyed long runs with the same readership and narrow content pool for decades, but of course, have suffered miserably as the networks sunset decades-old strongholds like "The Guiding Light." Also true, Reality Weekly chose a tough time to enter the fray. Consumer magazines were down 10% in newsstand sales in 2011, with AMI's OK! plummeting 27.5%.
“We're looking for houses to paint. In fact, paint is an understatement. We're looking for homes to turn into billboards,” goes the proposal from Los Angeles based marketing firm Brainiacs from Mars. “In exchange, we'll pay your mortgage every month for as long as your house remains painted.”
Brainiacs prides itself on “Unconventional Marketing,” and as a Reuter’s story describes, plans to market itself on 1,000 homes across the U.S.
The Reuters story profiles a Los Angeles family who were one of 38,000 applicants (and counting) for 1,000 home/billboards. Brainiacs CEO Romeo Mendoza launched the scheme in April 2011, and has received applications from as far afield as Japan and Russia. Homeowners fill out a short application on the Brainiacs from Mars site, answering simply where the applicant heard of the offer, and “Why should we paint your house?”
The usual response is that the homeowner has money troubles, and Mendoza looks to accept the applicants who are “most deserving.’ The family profiled, named Hostetler, has an underwater mortgage and high credit card debt. Most U.S. applicants are from the hard-hit areas of California, Nevada and Florida. Applicants must agree to a one-month contract, which can be extended for up to a year, thus taking a one year holiday from mortgage payments. Forty four percent of homeowners are “underwater,” and in the Buena Park neighborhood covered in the Reuters story, one in 270 homes has been foreclosed upon.
The reaction from neighbors and the Buena Park city council run the gamut from amusement to fury. The city has no restrictions on colors, but according to a city councilman, does on advertising. Housing finance expert Charles Mclaughlin told Reuters the scheme is unlikely to take off; it will be perceived as graffiti, and will run into zoning challenges frequently.
For now, Brainiacs is achieving what it set out to do, which was gain publicity; the house/billboard scheme has been a homepage news story on CNN and MSNBC among other outlets, has been a feature story on Fox News, and the subject of a Jay Leno “Tonight Show” monologue. Mendoza claims $55 million in free advertising from the press.
Brainiacs has launched a similar campaign to in essence turn your chest into a billboard: applicants pay $25 for a Brainiacs t-shirt, then upload creative photos of themselves wearing the shirt to the Brainiacs Facebook page. "If we like what we see, we'll pay 3 months of your mortgage," goes the offer.
- Twitter will launch its enhanced brand ads on February 1, according to Business Insider. The Facebook-like functionality has been available to a few select brands, including Coca-Cola, but now will be generally available—at a pricetag of $25,000.
- ESPN and Jeep caught heat from Digiday, which named the network and automaker in its Bad Ad of the Week.”ESPN covered the memorial service of former Penn State head football Joe Paterno. A rich-media ad for Jeep had a Jeep Wrangler “crash through” the computer screen, as well as Paterno’s casket, which sat dead center.
- The Sundance Film Festival and YouTube have cut a deal to rent out Sundance titles, reports Streaming Media. Most Sundance titles will rent for $2.99 to $3.99 for a 48-hour rental--$1 or more cheaper than from Comcast. The Sundance Film Festival wrapped over the weekend.
- Consumer-goods maker Procter & Gamble will “throw caution to the digital wind,” reports AdExchanger. Chairman and CEO Bob McDonald in an earnings conference call said the company would eliminate 1,600 non-manufacturing jobs, and invest heavily in its digital marketing. "In the digital space, with things like Facebook and Google and others, we find that return on investment of the advertising when properly designed, when the big idea is there, can be much more efficient."
- Angry consumers used Facebook to storm the gates of clothing retailer H&M last week. They accused the company of lifting a designer’s ad idea, reports Adweek. The company has begun marketing goods with the simple tagline “You look nice today,” with a red heart shape. Atlanta artist Tori LaConsay created the tagline—complete with red heart—for a sign in her neighborhood, in 2008. She was unpaid for the sign. Supporters have since deluged H&M’s Facebook site with hate messages. H&M at first attempted to dismiss the similarities as a “coincidence,” but is now seeking a resolution with LaConsay.
No official numbers yet, but industry buzz is that Reality Weekly, the new American Media Inc. (AMI), is struggling. Sources have told WWD that the first issue, shipped the last week of December, sold just over 100,000 copies, despite delivering 500,000 copies to newsstands. Subsequent issues have sold less.
Reality Weekly has made both safe and risky decisions. It priced itself at a consumer-friendly $1.79, and its online ads in other AMI properties ask “Seriously, where else are you going to have this much fun for just $1.79?” But its first issue featured Kim Kardashian on the cover, in defiance of “Kardashian Krash,” an ennui towards the celebrity sisters that has killed newsstand sales. Secondly, it named Omarosa O. Manigault its West Coast editor, and declared her in a press release to be “The first star of reality TV.” Manigault’s credentials and work ethic have always been sketchy; she appeared on the first season of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice,” declaring herself a former Clinton White House appointee. In reality, she held a low-level job from which she was fired. Since then, she has appeared on more than 20 reality shows, including "Surreal Life,” "Fear Factor" and "Girls Behaving Badly," and invariably generating negative buzz from viewers.
Reality Weekly has a cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) of $45, and Issue 1 had 14 pages of print ads. Its current issue featurs a "Biggest Loser" contestant sharing weight-loss tips and death threats toward "The Bachelor" contestant Ben Flajnik. Both "Loser" and "Bachelor" have seen declining ratings in their current seasons.
American Media owns both the Star and the National Enquirer tabloids, and another celebrity weekly magazine, OK!, which also appears to be struggling. WWD reports that OK! has averaged less than 200,000 in newsstand sales per week in January 2012, far down from its halcyon days of .5 million copies in newsstand sales.
Buyers planning on the Olbermann wit in Election 2012 coverage will have to settle for less-tested entities. Keith Olbermann is so far sitting out Current TV’s Election 2012 coverage—a disappointment for Current TV, which has counted upon Olbermann for a shot in the arm. Olbermann famously left MSNBC for Current TV in June 2011, largely to recreate his “Countdown” success anywhere but MSNBC. But along with bringing the “Countdown” format to Current, he appears to have brought his dislike of authority, suggests The New York Times. Thusfar, Olbermann is not scheduled to cover the January Iowa caucus or New Hampshire primary; and has sat out two special reports on the December Republican debates. Current is counting on the draw of its anchors Cenk Uygur and Jennifer Granholm, a former Michigan governor, plus former VP Al Gore (chairman of Current TV).