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
Ever heard of Ser Padres magazine?
Probably not. But you should. It featured what was perhaps the most effective single magazine advertisement of 2011, for cleaning products, and from Target Stores. In Spanish.
Michal Galin, who is executive vice president of research at GfK MRI Starch (which measures print-ad effectiveness) clocked the 10 most effective magazine ads of 2011 in an AdAge column. Not only weren’t the products particularly sexy, but they “”were not necessarily the ones with the most expensive creative or the highest media spend,” wrote Galin. The ads included coupons, M&Ms, detergents, iPads and travel apps. Sure, there were two attractive women, but not appealing to male consumers. One flat-stomached model advertised Skechers fitness shoes, and another Oil of Olay bath products, but in health-and-wellness journals with largely women readerships.
GfK MRI's Starch Advertising Research division studied a whopping 87,000 one-page and two-page print ads that appeared in consumer magazines in the calendar year, 2011. The company developed an "Engagement Score" compiled of the percentage of readers who read a particular ad, and those who took any action because of the ad. The 10 best-in-category ads had not only “stopping power,” said Galin, but also elicited a response like visiting the website; clipping the in-ad coupon; recommending or buying the product.
What they did do was choose their outlets carefully, then create a strong connection with the buyer. For example, an Xbox "Halo" ad appeared in the Official Xbox Magazine, and an American Airlines ad in American Way magazine. These advertisers took no chances, they chose magazines in which they have a built-in appeal to readers.
Tied for first place: a Spanish-language ad in the publication Ser Padres; and an ad for the WWE SummerSlam professional wrestling event in (not surprisingly) WWE Magazine.
The appeal of wrestling is obvious, and the readership guaranteed to be engaged —but just what is Ser Padres?
It is a Meredith publication, and the Spanish-language version of Parents magazine, published since 1990. “Ser Padres' goal is to be the primary source of inspiration and information on family, home and health,” says its marketing materials. Why this is remarkable is that a WWE event in a WWE magazine is practically guaranteed engagement. Cleaning products in Ser Padres must compete with clothing to medications to financial services and insurance has a harder time competing for attention.
Two ads, for Bed Bath & Beyond, and by Walmart for NatureMade vitamins, offered clippable coupons. NatureMade ads appeared in the health-and-wellness magazine All You, while the Bed, Bath & Beyond ad appeared in the May issue of Better Homes & Gardens.
“Either there's something wrong with the methodology here, or magazine advertising is even worse than I thought,” grumped co-founder Wayne Best of Cog NYC, a creative agency. “This is one of the worst collections of ads I've seen. If they were effective it was the coupons or the products themselves, not the job the agencies did.”
Best is right in that the ads (and their buyers) are risk-averse and playing it safe. Of course, young mothers are interested in keeping clean homes, and of course, a 20-year-old gamer who reads Official Xbox Magazine might be interested in the game “Combat Evolved Anniversary.” But with consumer ad pages and newsstand sales on the decline—largely because consumers are having a hard time coughing up the $2 to $5 dollars it takes to buy the magazines—it is simply good business sense to play it safe.
“On December 31, 2013, the last of the Baby Boomers will turn 50 years old,” wrote blogger Gary Holmes, “and the most significant generational cohort in history will graduate from the 18-49 TV ratings category,” oft described as “highly prized” or “most coveted.” But, asks Holmes, “With the Boomers moving into a new demographic, isn’t it time for reporters to stop fixating on 18- to 49-year-olds?”
Holmes is a communications consultant in the Greater New York City area, and knows from whenst he speaks. For six years, Holmes was the Nielsen Company’s Chief Press Officer and VP of Communications; and he is in his early 50s. He spoke to us about his blog, which also appears on Media Post.
“I think 18-49 is an outmoded as a catch-all for all reporting. Reporters automatically cite 18 to 49 without thinking ‘Is that really the right demographic for this show? There are plenty of networks that have big audiences who are in the 50 to 65 range, but no one thinks to cite them as a category. They should think more seriously about what’s the more important demo—if they cite one at all. They’d be better off citing the total number of viewers.”
Holmes is skeptical that advertisers are disinterested in consumers 50 and older. As he wrote in his blog, “[They] have far more disposable income than those in their teens and 20s.” The conventional argument is that older people have fixed buying patterns and brand preferences, “so there is no point trying to get them interested in anything other than adult diapers and denture cream once they get into their 50s.” But the Baby Boomers are a generation that is open to new experiences; Holmes himself routinely buys different brands of shaving cream, breakfast cereal and gasoline. They have a few brand preferences, perhaps toothpaste and cola, but are not habitually brand loyal.
Besides which, TV viewers over 50 do buy laptops, cell phones, tablets and digital cameras, none of which were available when the Boomers were young and developing their buying habits. “If ad buyers for these products are discounting older viewers,” Holmes wrote in his blog, “they should be fired.”
What do those older viewers watch? The news, strongly. As Holmes described to us, “The ratings for the Republican debates were four times higher in the 50+ demographic than in the 18 to 49 range. So three quarters of the people watching the debates were over 50, but the media persists in quoting ratings at 18 to 49.” Is that simply a matter of political demographics—that younger people lean toward the Democratic party? Not necessarily. “Older viewers are more apt to watch the news than younger ones,” says Holmes. Thus any broadcast news outlet can have poor ratings in the 18-49 demo, but great ratings in total viewership.
What does Holmes watch, himself? “I watch Mad Men, but also Colbert and The Daily Show, and NBC’s Thursday-night comedies, Modern Family, ESPN. And I have a 20 year-old son, and we watch many of the same shows. Goes to show you.”
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.”
Mimicking the May network upfront ad bazaar, digital video providers Google, Yahoo, Hulu, Microsoft and AOL are teaming up for “Digital Content New Fronts,” reports the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
The upfront will take place in April in New York (location to be determined), and each provider will have a day to meet advertisers and outline marketing opportunities, e.g., plans for video programming in the works. WSJ describes this as a clear indicator of an “intensifying effort by the online video world to challenge television.”
A digital upfront is due, believes eConsultancy’s Patricio Robles. Last year he observed that “Thanks to sophisticated web analytics tools and DSPs, advertisers have the ability to optimize their campaigns, shifting budgets and resources to maximize ROI, in real time.”
While digital content may be streaming network content (consider the full episodes available through network websites), WSJ also reported on the boom in web-only content. For example, veteran producer Brian Robbins, who was behind several TV shows like “Smallville” has 35 teen-oriented web-only programs in development. These include a hipster version of “The View,” starring teenaged luminaries of Twitter and YouTube. The creators of CSI are filming a series of YouTube thrillers, and Tom Hanks and Kevin Spacey are producing shows for both Yahoo and Netflix, respectively. Google in particular is funding 100 YouTube channels, with $5 million apiece. The show creators usually retain ownership of the content, thus, can take their digital programming to television (should the need arise, which only time will tell).
Americans are spending 33+ hours per week watching video, and across numerous screens, according to the just-issued Nielsen Cross Platform Report. That is a lot of media time, but where to buy ad time? It depends who you are attempting to reach. Older viewers watch the most television. Young viewers are watching less, but as The New York Times describes it, "Youths are watching, but less often on TV."
Nielsen reported data for Q3 2010 and Q3 2011, year-over-year (YOY), and as Nielsen describes it, “changes are afoot” as consumers seek the options that make the most sense for them (usually depending upon their comfort with the Internet, or household income).
Younger viewers are spending less time watching TV, at 120.56 minutes per month, while those over 55 watch the most at 195.10 minutes per month. But the total viewer time is more even, taking into account mobile media and online. The upshot, says TechCrunch, is that “the issue isn’t as simple as switching from one medium to another,” for example, from TV to TV-over-Internet. Rather, with a “plethora of new TV consumption choices,” the mix is inconsistent, even among viewers in the same household.
Three quarters (75.3%) surveyed pay for broadband Internet, up from 70.9% in 2011. Fully 90.4% pay for cable, telco-provided TV or satellite. Also, homes with both paid TV and broadband increased 5.5% since last year.
The number of homes subscribing to wired cable decreased 4.1% over the past 12 months, while telco-provided and satellite TV increased by 21.1% and 2.1%.
Although they comprise less than 5% of TV households, homes with both broadband Internet and broadcast TV are on the rise, having grown 22.8% over the last year. In those households, viewers stream twice as much video content as do the average households, and watch half as much broadcast TV.
Among other findings for Q3 2011, YOY:
- Households watching time-shifted TV increased by 65.9% YOY
- Mobile video viewing increased by 205.7% increase in users
- TV over Internet increased by 21.7%
- Asian wired cable subscribers declined from nearly 66% to 51%
- 12% of Asians opt for telco delivery, up 3% YOY
- Hispanic homes are more likely to be broadcast only at 15%, or satellite connected at 34%, than any other ethnic demographic.
The Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) has released its semiannual FAS-FAX report on U.S. consumer magazines, covering July to December 2011.
The champion among subscriptions: AARP [American Association of Retired People], The Magazine, with 22.4 million subscribers, closely followed by AARP: The Bulletin, with 22.2 million. But, these publications are benefits of AARP membership, with its 50+ demographic. Only two other titles in the list are membership-based, being AAA Living and American Legion Magazine.
Excluding those, Better Homes and Gardens tops the list, with 22.2 million subscribers—down just a hair from 2010. BHG (a Meredith title) claims a monthly readership of 38.33 million readers, 30.28 million of whom are women.
There is likely very little crossover in demographics between BHG and #4 on the list—Game Informer, covering the interactive gaming market. Publisher Sunrise Publications offers no insight into its demographics (which presumably reflects those of gamers, being largely male and under 30).
10% downtick at newsstands
Still, single-copy sales were down 9.96% during the period, which Media Life called the “steepest slide in the last four reporting periods.” Single-copy sales across 408 consumer titles dropped from 32,118,948 in the latter half of 2011 to 28,919,153. They were down 9.15% during the first half of 2011, and down down 7.27% latter 2010.
Ad pages were down in 2011 as well, and consumers likely cut back on impulse buys, particularly of celebrity titles like OK!. Newsstand sales of OK! plummeted 27.5%. Women’s titles suffered as well, with Oprah Winfrey’s O down 32%.
Still, publishers are pushing valiantly into the digital space—a good move: According researchers GfK MRI, almost three-quarters (71%) of tablet owners say they are interested in reading magazines on their devices. Publishers are not surrendering on the newsstands, either. Yesterday marked the launch of a revamped Ladies’ Home Journal, (12th among paid subscriberships in latter 2011, absent from the top 25 in newsstand sales). In addition to a new look and logo, the new content creation model invites readers for a stipend to submit personal growth stories—ostensibly for a more engaged readership.
Media buyers and planners hoping to take advantage of Campaign 2012, take note: cable news leads the pack among sources, with local TV in second place, but on the decline. A surprising second-to-last, the Internet. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press’ 2012 campaign news survey discovered the trends in a January survey of 1,507 adults nationwide.
Pew reports that fewer Americans are closely following the campaign than four years ago, which has caused long-term and sharpening declines in the number of people tuning into local TV and network news.
Cable tops the sources in 2012, at 36%, but is only treading water. That despite the fact that cable nets have hosted most of the Republican debates, which are among a campaign year’s strongest draws. Almost half of Republicans (47%) watched a Republican debate during this campaign, up from 32% during the 2008 campaign.Still, cable news “reaches a substantial number across age and partisan lines,” reports Pew. Republicans tune into Fox News, Democrats into CNN and MSNBC.
Only 20% of Americans “regularly learn something” about the campaign or its candidates from local daily papers, a plummet from 31% in 2008. Local TV is down as well.
It is easy to blame it all on the Internet, but not so fast: the Internet as a source has gained only 1% since the 2008 campaign. The Internet had jumped from 13 to 24%, from campaign 2004 (Bush/Kerry) to campaign 2008 (McCain/Obama). Pew speculates that the Internet is the key source for a younger demographic, who are less likely to be Republican. Just 20% of those younger than 30 followed the campaign closely, down from 31% in 2008.
Advertisers are finding that banner ads in mobile games are viewed as an annoyance, reports Digiday. Companies like Kiip and Appsavvy, and San Francisco-based Gimmie, have found an alternative: rewarding game players with coupons or points toward a purchase.
Advertisers using Kiip applications offer what Kiip calls “Real Rewards for Virtual Achievements.” A player who, for example, achieves a high score in “Slam Dunk Basketball” may receive congratulations and an offer from such consumer brands as Sephora, Carl’s Jr., Dr. Pepper and 1-800-Flowers.
Thusfar, no market research exists to quantify the benefits to those advertisers, or to the game developers who incorporate Kiip, AppSavvy or Gimmie (now in private beta testing). But Kiip CEO Brian Wong estimates the number of mobile game players in the U.S. is 15 million, and growing; and increasingly female. But in addition to those top brands, in-game reward developers are attracting heavy investment. Kiip was incorporated only in July 2010, and has since received $4.4 million in funding from True Ventures, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, and Crosslink Capital. Appsavvy has received $3.1 million in first round funding, also led by True Ventures, and a private investment by About.com Founder Scott Kurnit.
“The 79 million Millennials in the U.S. have an estimated purchasing power of $170 billion dollars per year," said comScore Vice President Bert Miklosi. "Their comfort-level with the Internet and technology in general makes the digital medium an ideal platform for reaching these individuals.”
The digital market research firm has released its report Next-Generation Strategies for Advertising to Millennials. The report highlights results from the company’s study that identifies unique characteristics of the “Millennial generation” (persons born between 1981 and 2000, thus, 12-31 years of age). comScore examined Millennials’ responses to different types of advertising, including TV and digital, compared to older generations, and how marketers can most effectively target this demographic segment.
The medium is ideal, but the Millenial is generally more difficult to persuade via advertising than their older counterparts. This said Miklosi underscores “the importance of creative and messaging optimization in driving worthwhile returns from an investment in advertising to this segment.” Also true, to quote the report, “It is harder for advertising to achieve breakthrough and catch the attention of Millennials, who are notorious for multitasking and short attention spans.” In fact, their immediate recall is the lowest of any age group—at 43%, 9% lower than that of seniors. Still, their delayed recall was strongest among age groups, at 24%.
Courtesy comScore, Inc.
Other key findings:
- The defining characteristics of Millennials include their comfort-level with new technologies and cultural diversity, as well as being accustomed to on-demand access to entertainment, continual stimulation and extreme multitasking.
- Millennials tend to be less interested and more difficult to connect with, capture attention, impress, convince and entertain. Millennials also appear to be more price-sensitive, perhaps due to lower disposable incomes.
- Digital advertising performs better in relative terms among Millennials than does television advertising.
- Across generations including Millennials, the presence of key creative elements in advertising, coined by comScore as the Validated Drivers, were shown to relate strongly to successful advertising.
- Millennials are highly engaged with the content that they choose to view, within both television and digital environments. Engagement has been shown to amplify the effectiveness of advertising, so when targeting Millennials, it is important to utilize engaging content to help boost returns from investments in advertising.