29 September 2010

F.T.C. Challenges Pom Juice’s Health Claims

NY Times

Pom Wonderful, the pricey and popular pomegranate juice sold in the distinctly curvaceous bottle, is advertised as helping to reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and impotence. But according to the Federal Trade Commission, the evidence does not back up those claims.

On Monday, the F.T.C. charged Pom Wonderful, which markets the juice, and the company’s owners, the billionaire philanthropists Lynda and Stewart Resnick of Los Angeles, with making false and unsubstantiated claims about the power of their pomegranate elixir.

In a complaint that seeks to prevent the company from making any further medical claims unless they are substantiated by the Food and Drug Administration, the commission said the company ignored evidence that contradicted its claims that the juice could help prevent or treat heart disease, reduce the risk of prostate cancer and overcome erectile dysfunction.

The Resnicks said Monday that they planned to contest the charges. Their company has sued the commission in federal district court, claiming that the commission had exceeded its authority and was trampling Pom’s First Amendment rights.

“We stand behind the vast body of scientific research documenting the healthy properties of Wonderful variety pomegranate,” the company said Monday in a statement. “Our research is unprecedented among food and beverage companies, and we take pride in having initiated a program of modern scientific research to investigate the health benefits of this ancient and revered fruit.”

That ancient, revered status as a folk medicine led the Resnicks in 1998 to begin financing research into whether pomegranates and their antioxidants had health benefits, according to a 2008 profile in The New Yorker magazine.

The F.T.C. complaint comes at an awkward time for the Resnicks, whose other business ventures include Teleflora, the flower-delivery service; Fiji Water; Suterra, a maker of environmentally sensitive pest-control products; and Neptune Pacific Line, an Australian shipper. The couple also formerly owned the Franklin Mint, the marketer of commemorative coins, plates and dolls.

Last weekend, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened the Resnick Pavilion, a freestanding exhibition space that was financed in part by the couple’s $45 million gift to the museum, where Mrs. Resnick is vice chairman of the board and oversees the acquisitions committee.

Pom Wonderful claims to have spent $34 million on pomegranate research, including 19 clinical trials and multiple studies published in peer-reviewed journals.

In addition to the Resnicks and the company, the commission also charged Matthew Tupper, the president and chief operating officer of Pom Wonderful, and Roll International, which provides administrative services to POM and which, like POM, is owned by a Resnick trust. The charges will be heard by an administrative law judge in Washington next May.

The commission also settled on Monday a related false advertising case against Dr. Mark Dreher, Pom Wonderful’s former vice president of science and regulatory affairs, who also appeared in various media as an expert endorser of Pom Wonderful’s products. Without admitting or denying the charges, Dr. Dreher agreed not to engage in similar acts and to cooperate with further investigations.

The commission does not have statutory authority to assess fines for violations of its regulations, although it can being a lawsuit against someone who violates a consent order. Instead, the commission can order businesses to stop illegal marketing activities and can halt anticompetitive practices.

While not disputing that the company’s medical studies exist, the commission says that the company’s advertising claims overstate the results and ignore that the pomegranate products often showed no more efficacy than a placebo. In addition to the juice, Pom Wonderful sells POMx pill and liquid supplements.

The commission cited examples of Pom advertising that said the products produced “improved heart and prostate health and better erectile function.” Among the results of various studies were a reduction in plaque buildup in the carotid artery and in blood pressure, and slower progression of an indicator for prostate cancer.

Those results ignored the fact, the commission contended, that as early as May 2007 the company knew that a large study financed by the company showed no significant difference in arterial plaque buildup after 18 months between patients who drank Pom and those who drank a placebo.

The commission also stated that the company’s prostate-related claims relied on a study that itself notes uncertainty as to whether the outcomes cited by the company were relevant as an indication of clinical benefit. It also said the company’s studies on erectile function produced no statistically significant results. Pom strongly disputed the commission’s assertions. “We do not make claims that our products act as drugs,” the company said. “What we do, rather, is communicate, through advertising, the promising science relating to pomegranates. Consumers and their health providers have a right to know about this research and its results.”

The commission proposed an order that would require the company to get F.D.A. approval before it makes any future claims that its products prevent or treat serious diseases.

In its federal lawsuit, Pom Wonderful accused the commission of applying a new standard for deceptive advertising to the food and dietary supplement industry that overturns 20 years of commission policy. That policy was laid out earlier this year by the commission in separate deceptive advertising actions against Nestlé HealthCare Nutrition and Iovate Health Sciences.

Pom also said that the commission was, in seeking to require F.D.A. oversight over the company’s claims, treating pomegranate juice as a drug although the products “do not carry the risks associated with pharmaceutical drugs.”

“It’s a shame that the government is unable to understand this fundamental distinction,” the company said, “and instead is wasting taxpayer resources to persecute the pomegranate.”

28 September 2010

Trojan Makes Concessions to Place a Suggestive Ad

NY Times

TROJAN, the condom brand, has had its share of run-ins with censors, most notably in 2007, when both Fox and CBS rejected a commercial with a safe-sex message that featured anthropomorphized pigs. Now Trojan is introducing a vibrator called Tri-Phoria, and it says a new commercial is actually drawing less resistance than it had expected.

Trojan says it thought the spot would most likely be relegated to the wee hours, but some cable networks, including Comedy Central, Spike and VH1, have approved it for day and early evening slots — and none have rejected it outright. A Tri-Phoria commercial has run since early September during the day and early evening, for example, on Comedy Central, appearing during “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report” and “South Park.”

For a smaller vibrator, the Mini, which Trojan introduced in 2009, cable networks restricted commercials to an average window of just five hours after midnight, said Kierie Courtney, senior manager of direct response marketing at Church & Dwight, which owns the Trojan brand.

With the Tri-Phoria, which sells for $40, “one of our key goals was around the acceptance and mainstreaming of the product category,” Ms. Courtney said.

For the first time, Trojan showed storyboards of prospective ads to representatives from cable networks this year, toning ads down to assuage concerns, and they said that as a result the average window for the new spot was 11 hours. But the concessions that Trojan consented to were considerable: it agreed to neither use the word “vibrator” nor show the product.

“Has life got you stressed out?” begins a voiceover in the commercial, in an over-the-top style of an infomercial, as a woman sits stuck in traffic. “Want to have some fun? New from Trojan, a brand you trust. Introducing vibrating Tri-Phoria — it’s like three massagers in one.”

The new commercial, by Sullivan Productions of Tampa, Fla., calls the product a “personal massager.” Borrowing a trope from pharmaceutical commercials, it continues, “Side effects of Tri-Phoria may include screams of ecstasy, curled toes, a sudden glow and intense waves of pleasure.”

In “The Technology of Orgasm,” a history of the vibrator, Rachel P. Maines writes that in the early 1900s the devices were advertised in women’s magazines and the Sears catalog, albeit obliquely as relaxation aids, and it was not until they started appearing in stag films in the 1920s that, as Ms. Maines puts it, their “social camouflage” was undone and such ads disappeared.

Asked to review the new Tri-Phoria commercial, Ms. Maines said it “comes very close to telling you what it is good for” without quite doing so.

“The camouflage used to be a lot thicker, but there’s still a very thin layer of camouflage,” she said. “The networks have moved to where they’re resigned to accept some sort of advertising — but they still require a fig leaf held up with suspenders.”

Brian Fays, executive vice president for advertising at MTV, which is owned by Viacom, lauded Trojan’s restraint.

“No matter how liberal you are, a little kid doesn’t need to hear the word ‘vibrator,’ ” said Mr. Fays, who knows about advertising decisions by other Viacom networks that accepted the Tri-Phoria commercial, like Comedy Central, Logo and Spike.

“At first there was a certain amount of trepidation that maybe the viewing public wasn’t prepared to see a commercial with vibrators, and we automatically put it in the overnight slot, but we opened it up because, instead of it being taboo, they got their point across subtly,” he said.

MTV, in fact, is among the most restrictive of the cable networks, permitting the Tri-Phoria spot only between 3:30 a.m. and 6 a.m., which Mr. Fays attributed to the network’s having a “younger demographic.” But if the commercial has “smooth sailing” during earlier slots on other Viacom networks, MTV may permit it to be seen in earlier time slots too, he said.

Not everyone views television networks’ greater acceptance of ads of a sexual nature as a victory. On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement urging, among other things, that ads for erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra be shown only after 10 p.m. and “not be overly suggestive.”

Trojan says the Tri-Phoria campaign represents the largest advertising campaign for a vibrator, and that the company is spending “millions” on it, but declines to be more specific. The Trojan brand spent a total of $22.4 million on advertising (most of it focused on condoms) in 2009, according to the Kantar Media unit of WPP.

Market research companies that follow a variety of consumer goods do not track the vibrator market, but research by Trojan pegs annual revenue for the devices in the United States at about $1 billion, 2.5 times that of condoms.

According to Trojan-financed studies published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, 52.5 percent of women and 44.8 percent of men have used vibrators. Contrary to the perception that the devices are nearly always used by the unaccompanied, 40.9 percent of women and 40.5 percent of men report having used them with sexual partners.

Men made 40 percent of the online purchases of the Mini and the Touch, two small vibrators Trojan introduced in the last two years. In 2009 it focused on men with ads in Maxim for the Mini.

Jim Daniels, vice president for marketing at Trojan, said the restrained approach of the ad on cable networks would increase the likelihood of eventually gaining approval for the commercials on the major broadcast networks.

“Our goal is with facts and experience on our side to approach networks for approval, possibly in the early part of next year,” Mr. Daniels said.

He says that although Tri-Phoria is available only on Trojan’s Web site now, he expects it to be carried at major retailers like CVS, Walgreen’s and Wal-Mart beginning in the first half of 2011.

“This is right in Trojan’s wheelhouse,” he said. “We think we’re creating a good buzz — pun intended — and we think consumers will be happy with the products we’re offering.”

New Yorker Launches on iPad

The Wall Street Journal

The New Yorker is launching an iPad version of the magazine Monday, in a significant test of an iconic, old-media brand's efforts to refashion itself for the tablet-computer age.

The launch highlights the mounting pressure on Apple Inc. to give publishers a way to sell their magazines more than one digital issue at a time. Executives from the New Yorker and its publisher, Condé Nast, say the true value of apps like the New Yorker's can't be realized until readers are allowed to purchase subscriptions.

Apple has accelerated its efforts to persuade publishers to join the company's first foray into selling newspaper and magazine subscriptions for the iPad tablet computer. Shira Ovide joins the Digits show to discuss.

"It is important to the New Yorker that we have offerings that allow long-term relationships with the consumers," said Condé Nast President Bob Sauerberg. "Obviously, we don't have that in place for the moment with Apple. We are very keen to do that."

The New Yorker's iPad application, at $4.99 an issue, comes with many of the bells and whistles now familiar to readers of periodicals on the device: an animated cover, slideshows and bonus content including extra cartoons and a video guide to reading the issue featuring actor and avid New Yorker reader Jason Schwartzman.

New Yorker editor David Remnick has said he wants to give readers the option of paying for a premium subscription that includes access to the magazine in print, online and on devices like the iPad. However, Apple could be months away from introducing an iPad subscription offering, and publishers remain uncertain about the terms that will govern sales.

Getting beyond single-copy sales is critical for weekly publications like the New Yorker as publishers fear readers will be unwilling to download a new issue every week—and pay up each time. Time Inc. recently tried to launch an app for Sports Illustrated with its own subscription offering, but Apple forced the publisher to withdraw its application.

A key sticking point is Apple's apparent reluctance to give publishers full access to names and other personal information about people who purchase their apps. Publishers value that information because it helps them sell advertising and sign up new readers.

Hearst Corp.'s Esquire magazine is expected to launch on the iPad this week, and while Esquire won't offer subscriptions initially, Hearst executives say "there's progress being made" in talks with Apple.

For now, publications like the New Yorker are hoping readers find enough in the app to keep them coming back. The cover of the issue animates so that users get a brush-by-brush recreation of a still-life by artist David Hockney, who painted it using the Brushes app on the iPad. Users can click on any cartoon to launch a slideshow of every cartoon in the issue, plus five bonus ones that don't appear in print. The app was developed with Adobe Systems Inc.

Unlike more visual magazines, whose greater focus on images and graphics lend themselves better to new devices, the New Yorker is fundamentally about the writing, and editors say they were careful not to stray off course. Editors recently sent employees home with iPads and asked them to use it at all times of the day and report back on which layouts and type-sizes were most conducive to reading a 10,000-word story.

"This magazine is about reading," Mr. Remnick said.

The challenges of marrying technology with a magazine so singularly focused on journalism in its simplest form crystallized early in the development process. At one meeting, writer Roger Angell, who has been a contributor since 1944, expressed concern that if he were to craft a description of how a screwball is thrown by a baseball pitcher he didn't want readers to be able to press a button mid-article and watch a video.

However, writer Evan Osnos embraced the idea of adding to his article about China's Tibet policy a link to a Chinese propaganda film from the 1960s.

As with other Condé Nast publications, all print advertisers also appear on the iPad, but a select group could pay more for "premium" ads that include slideshows, video and other graphics. HSBC, Intel, American Express, Visa and Mexico's tourism board bought premium ads in the New Yorker's first iPad edition.

27 September 2010

Pediatricians Want to Restrict Ads for Tobacco, Booze, Viagra

US News & World Report

The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't want children exposed to tobacco ads at all, and wants to limit their exposure to alcohol marketing and advertisements for erectile dysfunction drugs and other prescription medications.

Those are just a few of the recommendations in its new policy statement, "Children, Adolescents, Substance Abuse, and the Media," published in the October issue of Pediatrics.

"Although parents, schools and the federal government are trying to get children and teenagers to 'just say no' to drugs, more than $25 billion worth of cigarette, alcohol and prescription drug advertising is effectively working to get them to 'just say yes' to smoking, drinking and other drugs," wrote the policy's authors.

Every year, more than 400,000 people in the United States die from smoking-related illness, according to the policy statement. And, more than 100,000 deaths can be attributed to excessive alcohol consumption.

The AAP is targeting advertising because it works. Advertising may be responsible for as much as 30 percent of alcohol and tobacco use, the authors say. When Camel cigarettes started an ad campaign using a cartoon camel as its mascot, its market share went from 0.5 percent of teen smokers to 32 percent. And, exposure to tobacco marketing more than doubles the risk of a teenager starting to smoke, the paper states.

Alcohol ads are getting through to younger kids, too. A study of 9- and 10-year-olds found that as many kids who could identify Bugs Bunny could also identify the Budweiser frogs. In another study, 75 percent of fourth-graders could identify a ferret used in a Budweiser advertisement.

The AAP would like to see a ban on all tobacco ads and an end to smoking in movies. If characters are smoking, they shouldn't be glamorized, the statement advises.

Some other highlights of the statement include:

    * Limit advertising and product placement for alcohol in venues where more than 10 percent of the audience are children. Alcohol use in teens shouldn't be portrayed as normal in movies or TV shows, and no one should be shown as being "funny-drunk."

    * The White House Office on Drug Control Policy should conduct anti-smoking and anti-teen-drinking public service campaigns.

    * Drug companies, public health groups and the medical communities should have an open debate on the necessity of advertising prescription drugs.

    * Ads for erectile dysfunction drugs should only be shown after 10 p.m., and they shouldn't be overly suggestive.

    * Schools should try to incorporate media education into their curricula.

    * Parents should limit unsupervised media use.

"Alcohol remains the greatest public health problem, and it remains the most lethal drug for young people. Parents need to understand this, and protect their children," said Dr. John R. Knight, director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at Children's Hospital of Boston. "Advertising glamorizes alcohol and really primes our kids to think they can't have fun unless there's booze."

Knight said prescription drug ads contribute to the idea that these drugs are safe for anyone to take and lead to greater prescription drug abuse in teens.

Of the new policy statement, Knight said he's "proud of the AAP" for taking a stand.

Lori Evans, a psychologist at the New York University Child Study Center, agreed that the AAP recommendations are important. "We know the impact of advertising. That's why advertisers spend money on it. For kids, the images are so vivid and clear that it's a good thing to limit access."

But, she added, "No matter how much we limit access, we still have to watch with our children because we need to know what they're seeing and hearing." For example, she said, if you're watching a football game with your children, you'll likely see beer ads. She suggested that parents point out that beer isn't necessary to have a good time.

Knight's approach is a bit more radical. "I love the Super Bowl and I think they have the greatest ads, but I would not encourage my kids to watch that game. I don't want them exposed to it. Parents have the ultimate power and can vote with their feet by not watching."

If you just can't give up watching the big game, Knight suggests using technology to your advantage: Record the game, so you can fast-forward through the commercials.

24 September 2010

NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker gets a Cancellation Notice from Comcast

USA Today

NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker said today that he'll end his 24-year career at the television, movie, Internet, and theme park giant when Comcast takes control. That could happen by year end if the deal is cleared by federal officials.

Zucker, 45, told staffers in a memo that "it is clear to me that this is the right decision for me and for the company" because Comcast deserves "the chance to implement their own vision."

But he told The New York Times that his departure was involuntary. In a meeting two weeks ago, he said, Comcast COO Steve Burke "made it clear that they wanted to move on."

Earlier Zucker pooh-poohed persistant speculation that Comcast might put its own team in charge when the deal closes.

Although once considered a wunderkind in his years as a news producer , Zucker's reputation as a corporate executive suffered as NBC's prime time audience fell. The nadir for the highly image-conscious CEO came early this year when he took responsibility for the management debacle from his decision to turn one of NBC's most important franchises, The Tonight Show, over to comedian Conan O'Brien. Audiences didn't warm to the new host, or to a weeknight show featuring the former host Jay Leno. O'Brien left the network when NBC asked Leno to return to The Tonight Show.

But Zucker said that the real focus of the company had shifted to cable where networks including USA, SyFy, CNBC, and MSNBC are thriving. He also hoped to establish a strong foothold in digital media by championing Hulu, which NBC Universal launched in a partnership with News Corp.

23 September 2010

FCC Examines Complaint against Skechers Cartoon

Associated Press

The Federal Communications Commission is looking into complaints that a new television show based on characters first created to market Skechers shoes to kids would violate government rules that limit advertising in children's programming.

The FCC is seeking public comment on a petition filed last week by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood seeking to block the cartoon series "Zevo-3," which premieres on the cable network Nicktoons on Oct. 11. It stars three superheroes from comic books and TV commercials promoting Skechers.

The Boston-based group says the program would violate a requirement in federal law that cable companies air no more than 12 minutes of commercial material per hour of children's programming, and FCC rules mandating a separation between commercial content and programming.

In its petition, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood argued that the cartoon should be considered an advertisement for Skechers footwear because its three superheroes - Kewl Breeze, Elastika, and Z-Strap, who battle the evil Dr. Stankfoot.- promote specific lines of shoes.

"For children, the characters . embody the shoe lines they represent, so much so that retailers report that kids often refer to the shoes by character name rather than by the shoe model," the petition says.

Josh Golin, associate director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, welcomed the FCC inquiry.

"This would be the first children's television program based on advertising icons and as such, the entire program would be an ad," he said, noting that the cartoon could "open the floodgate for shows starring Ronald McDonald, Tony the Tiger and all the other advertising characters."

Nicktoons, owned by Viacom Inc., said in a statement that it does not believe "Zevo-3" is a program-length commercial or that it would violate advertising rules.

Skechers had no immediate comment Wednesday. The company said last week that it is "tremendously proud of 'Zevo-3,'" and described the cartoon as "a fun, action-packed and beautifully animated series."

22 September 2010

KFC Pays College Women for Ad Space on Buns

USA Today

KFC wants folks to watch its backside.

Or, more precisely, the backsides of female college students it's recruiting to promote its hot new bunless Double Down sandwiches.

Women on college campuses are being paid $500 each to hand out coupons while wearing fitted sweatpants with "Double Down" in large letters across their rear ends.

The promo comes as KFC is in the doldrums domestically. The world's largest chicken chain's U.S. same-store sales fell 7% in the second quarter. Nearly all its growth now is in international expansion.

Last week, the chain confessed that more than six in 10 Americans ages 18 to 25 — the chain's key demographic — couldn't identify who Colonel Sanders was in the KFC logo.

Now, it's turning to cute women parading around campus with "Double Down" emblazoned across their fannies.

The nation's largest women's group doesn't like it one bit. "It's so obnoxious to once again be using women's bodies to sell fundamentally unhealthy products," says Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. What's more, she says, KFC has forgotten something important: Women make more than half the decisions about what to eat for dinner.

But KFC marketing chief John Cywinski says it's an effective way to catch the attention of young men — KFC's key customers and the biggest fans of Double Down.

As of Tuesday afternoon, KFC had received no complaints about the campaign, KFC spokesman Rick Maynard says. "We've taken a page out of the book of some apparel companies and sororities who have promoted in this way for years," Maynard says.

The program began last week at Spalding University in downtown Louisville. The chain plans to expand it to at least three more campuses. The additional schools and the women there will be picked via a Facebook promotion.

The stunt hasn't reached Colorado State University — and senior public relations major Candace Carlucci hopes it never does. "It may be funny, but it's also inappropriate and degrading," she says. "There must be another way for KFC to get its message out."

Brand guru Jonathan Salem Baskin says there's nothing "inherently wrong" with using women to attract guys, but in this case, "It's irrelevant to the product." KFC would do better, he says, to follow the McDonald's model: "Clean up your stores, fix the menu and please people with the food you make."

One point of confusion, he jokes: "I guess the buns do come with KFC's sandwich."

21 September 2010

Murdoch Banks on Rooney Hooker, Coke Binge to Push Paywall Plans‏


James Murdoch’s plan to charge for online access to U.K. tabloid News of the World shows he’s extending his paywall model even as advertisers flee websites of two of his other newspapers where Internet readers have to pay.

News of the World, which this month featured a video of boxer Ricky Hatton purportedly snorting cocaine and published an interview with a prostitute who said she had sex with Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney while his wife was pregnant, will seek payment from Web readers from next month. The move follows Murdoch-controlled News Corp.’s July push to get London papers The Times and The Sunday Times into the online-pay arena.

With more people getting their news from the Internet, newspapers are increasingly charging for online access to make up for lost revenue from print advertising. Murdoch’s strategy to put all stories of his U.K. newspapers behind an online paywall differs from the approach of some other newspapers such as the Financial Times which first gives access to some stories online before it starts charging.

So far, The Times and The Sunday Times have seen readers leave to access free news elsewhere, with advertisers following suit. “I can go to the Guardian or CNN and get an audience,” said Chris Bailes, digital trading manager at Starcom MediaVest Group, a media buyer owned by Publicis Groupe SA. “No one is indispensable.”

Starcom MediaVest, which has placed ads for the Emirates airline and Continental Airlines Inc., has cut its advertising on the Times and Sunday Times by more than 50 percent, Bailes said. News Corp.’s international unit hasn’t communicated with media buyers about its online figures, he said.

“We wouldn’t put our money where we don’t know the numbers, just as you wouldn’t invest in a stock,” Bailes said.

Fewer Visitors

James, Rupert Murdoch’s son, is the chairman and chief executive officer of News Corp.’s European and Asian operations that oversee the U.K. news titles. A News Corp. spokeswoman declined to comment on Times readership or advertising since the paywall was installed.

Visits to the website of The Times fell to a third as of July 20, several weeks after the paywall was put up, data compiled by Experian Hitwise showed. Murdoch has not publicly commented on the traffic.

The News of the World might be able to turn the paywall model into more of a success, some analysts said.

News of the World will re-launch its site in October and make it available for 1 pound ($1.6) a day or 1.99 pounds for four weeks, News Corp.’s international unit, News International said in a statement yesterday. An Apple Inc. iPad application will follow for 1.19 pounds a week. Access to the site of “Fabulous” magazine will be included in the pricing, it said.

Tabloid Model

The News of the World website “will be the third of our titles to launch a paid-for digital proposition in under four months,” News International Chief Executive Officer Rebekah Brooks said in the statement.

“News of the World has a lot of content and videos and it could be easier to attract paying readers,” said Benedict Evans, a media analyst at Enders Analysis in London. “People buy the paper to read about a footballer having sex, so why not do the same online?”

The Financial Times and Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal already charge for online access, and have enjoyed a degree of success because they offer premium content for a niche group of readers, analysts said.

Paper Paywalls

“I couldn’t imagine the same would happen for the New York Post or even Bild in Germany because they are general,” said Karsten Weide, a research vice president for digital media and entertainment at Interactive Data Corp. Bild is Germany’s biggest tabloid and the New York Post is an U.S. tabloid owned by News Corp.

Paid-for online versions of The New York Times and Washington Post could also do well because their readers are typically wealthy and better educated, Weide said. The paid-for online model could also work at local newspapers, where the content isn’t widely available, he said.

The New York Times plans to erect an Internet paywall next year. The newspaper will see “some effect” on readership after it implements a paywall next year, New York Times Co. Chief Executive Officer Janet Robinson said in June. “We feel that we will protect as much of the audience as possible” with a “metering” approach, that allows free access to a limited number of stories, she said at the time.

Different Approaches

The difficulty for general titles such as The Times is that similar news is available free from many more websites, including those of competing U.K. newspapers the Guardian, the Independent and the Daily Telegraph.

Stories from The Times online aren’t even available on the Google search engine so readers have no idea what the Times’ journalists are writing about, according to Enders’s Evans.

“The Financial Times paywall approach is better because it allows you several free articles a month and you can at least see what the stories are and share the content with your friends even if you cannot open all the stories,” he said.

Rupert and James Murdoch have both lobbied in the past for governments to do more to protect copyright online and prevent people from taking online content without paying for it.

The money an online reader generates is about a third or quarter that of a print reader. That’s because online ad rates are lower and the average online reader skims through about five pages, while an offline print reader averages 70 to 80 pages, Enders’s Evans said, citing figures by researcher ComScore.

IPad Effect

With contact details on a small base of loyal, paying online readers, marketers target users. Also, News Corp. could bundle newspaper subscriptions with TV offerings from pay-TV operator British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc, which it controls.

Paywalls are about developing a closer relationship with readers, said Alan Brydon, head of trading at the MPG media buying agency, owned by France’s Havas SA. The paywall allows marketers to target more effectively and send tailored messages to users to start a dialog, he said.

“I thought a year ago that paywalls were rubbish, but then you see the iPad and that’s how people will read a paper,” said Brydon. “In three to five years when iPads are as ubiquitous as iPods you will see people subscribing.”

MPG has probably cut its ads on the Times and Sunday Times by 90 percent, from advertisers including Air France-KLM and Sporting Index, Brydon said.

“There’s no shortage of places to go online to advertise, but if you have a database of 10,000 people with their details then that becomes very interesting,” he said.

19 September 2010

'Banned' TV Car Commercial Really Smart!

The Detroit News

Nobody banned this commercial from American television, any more than the back seat was banned from Smart cars. It was just never supposed to be there.

The ad is a killer, though -- 40 clever seconds of what seems like classic back-seat mayhem from the movies, even though every second was created for the spot.

It's a great example of how to turn a potential flaw into an attribute, and of how a few keystrokes on the Internet can turn something benign into a potential outlet for outrage. Why just post a video when you can pretend the networks or the government didn't want anyone to see it?

Banned? Hardly. Produced for German movie theaters when the second generation of Smarts came to the European market nearly four years ago, it was so loved by dealers that it wound up on TV in Italy and more European countries than its creator can remember.

At one auto show, says Toygar Bazarkaya of the BBDO ad agency in New York, the spot was projected onto the inside of the taped-up windshield of a Smart. The manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz, called it "the smallest movie theater in the world."
Up and down popularity

Things have been going somewhat downhill for the Smart, my favorite 8-foot-10-inch, two-passenger automobile.

I'm noticing more of them on the road, which is a good thing if they make you smile, and a very good thing if you're Roger Penske and you're running SmartUSA out of a row of offices behind the dealership in Bloomfield Hills. But in truth, U.S. sales peaked in the Smart fortwo's first year on the market, 2008, and haven't come close to those 24,622 units since.

Massive buzz and $4-a-gallon gasoline helped fuel the bonanza early on. Now that all the people who were entranced with the car have had a chance to buy one, practicality has set in.

If you've never driven a Smart, you don't realize how astonishingly roomy it is. The whole thing, after all, is two seats. And Smart owners will tell you that if a car with minimal luggage space suits your needs 90 percent of the time, it is by definition practical.

But still: There's no back seat. Never mind how rarely some people use the back seat or even notice it's there, the absence looms large.

That's why the client came to Bazarkaya and said, "Do something great."
Ad's German 'engineer'

He's a 42-year-old German, recently reassigned as an executive creative director in New York after having worked in the United States from 1997 to 2004. When he oversaw the Smart ad, he was back in Germany, where everyone knew what the car was and there were no fresh facts worth trumpeting.

Instead of getting technical, he says, "we thought of the worst thing you could ever communicate, and made it our strength." Put a mob hit man or a lurking stranger or a hockey-mask-wearing slasher in the rear of the car, fire up a tension-building sound track, and then cap 40 seconds of pretend rampage with a tagline: "No backseats. The Smart fortwo. Open your mind."

Among the tricks was to make a low-budget production look like a collection of reasonably high-budget film clips. The actors worked cheap, if they were even actors; the nodding man in the first scene was a Hamburg cabdriver, the man with the knife at the end was the sound mixer, and that's Bazarkaya with the glasses and curly hair, wielding the syringe.

"We're proud of who we are," he says. (That's a reference to the cars, not the homicidal tendencies.) "We don't have a back seat. So what? We're not going to pretend to have it."

He's mystified as to why anyone would claim the commercial was banned, but pleased that it's still circulating online. He's even considering buying a Smart for himself, though it'll take some more internal debate before he writes the check.

Like so many New Yorkers, he's already getting by with no backseats -- or for that matter, any seats at all.

17 September 2010

Craigslist will not Resume Adult Services Advertising

LA Times

A company official tells a congressional hearing on minors caught up in sex trafficking that the shutdown of its controversial classified ad website is permanent.

Craigslist has no plans to bring back the controversial adult services category that was on its classified advertising website, a company official told Congress on Wednesday.

Craigslist placed a block on the section earlier this month after law enforcement officials and human rights groups accused it of not properly monitoring the category and removing ads for prostitution and child trafficking.

William Clinton Powell, director of customer service and law enforcement relations for Craigslist, made the statement during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on minors caught up in sex trafficking.

Adult advertisements posted on Craigslist received three times more responses than those on any other online service, Deborah Richardson, chief program officer for the Women's Funding Network, said before the committee.

In the last six months, there has been a steep increase in the number of U.S. adolescent girls advertised for commercial sex on the Internet, Richardson said. Linda Smith, a former congresswoman who now heads the nonprofit Shared Hope group that provides rehabilitation for women and children involved in sex trafficking, said, "I have not had a girl that wasn't marketed online, and most of them were on Craigslist."

At least 100,000 children in the United States are involved in commercial sex every year and the average age at which girls enter prostitution is 13, Smith said.

Connecticut Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal, who led an effort to persuade Craigslist to drop the section, said Wednesday he was pleased by the announcement it would not be resumed, but asked the company for "more effective and aggressive screening to fight prostitution ads, including swift removal of suspect ads flagged by the public."

Ernie Allen, chief executive of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said removing the category was a "positive and productive" step. But he said more must be done.

"The goal is to destroy the business model for those who sell children for sex on the Internet," Allen said.

16 September 2010

Marketing Strategy: Buddy Up

The Wall Street Journal
Small Companies Ride Coattails of Larger Firms to Reduce Advertising Expenses
Mountain News Corp., which tracks snow conditions for ski mountains through its website, got a burst of national exposure without spending a penny last winter when Apple Inc. chose to feature Mountain News' mobile-phone app on an iPhone television commercial.

Before the commercial ran in February 2009, the Orinda, Calif., firm was pulling in 1.2 million unique visitors a month to its site, OnTheSnow.com. A year later, that number had jumped to 2.2 million, which the firm's global managing director, Chad Dyer, attributes in part to the free advertising. "There was nothing we had to do, nothing to spend," says Mr. Dyer.

Small companies generally keep tight tabs on advertising and marketing expenses, as the payoff may be uncertain. About 40% of business owners reported earlier this year that the economy was preventing them from spending on marketing and sales, according to a survey released by American Express OPEN, the company's small business division.

Sharing the Spotlight

While most small businesses aren't fortunate enough to be able to latch on to the campaign of a big company like Apple, some business owners have found ways to reduce marketing costs by sharing the spotlight with another company.

In May, Birds Barbershop in Austin, Texas, launched an advertising campaign with Lone Star Beer, which is owned by Pabst Brewing Co. The ads, which are running in local print and online publications, show a customer sporting a new hair-do and holding a beer. The ads list the price of the haircut and indicate that the beer is complimentary.

The barbershop has been serving a free beer to customers since 2006, says Michael Portman, who co-owns four locations. Lone Star had already been supplying the barbershops with cases at a discount price, and was game to split the cost of the ads.

The most expensive ad, prominently displayed in a bi-monthly Austin magazine, cost $900. Without a partner, Mr. Portman says he probably would have chosen a more modest ad. "I wouldn't make that leap alone," he says.

AssociaDirect Inc., which provides customized marketing tools to help organizations reach new members, is in the process of sending out more than 2,000 direct mailings to potential customers advertising a new marketing application for mobile phones. AssociaDirect's chief executive, Michael Faye, says the firm is splitting the $3,700 cost of the mailings with mobile technology company ConnectMedia Ventures, which will help create the application.

AssociaDirect is the only firm being advertised on the fliers, even though the two firms will collaborate for each project—AssociaDirect will create the design and ConnectMedia will provide the tech support. AssociaDirect will pay ConnectMedia for its portion of the work.
'Sales Arm to His Product'

"My partner understands that we are the sales arm to his product," explains Mr. Faye, who says he has since landed six appointments with interested organizations. "I don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars in my marketing budget."

FirstBank Holding Co. ran seven billboards throughout Colorado in the latter half of 2009 showing off its entrepreneurial customers. The billboards listed the services each entrepreneur provided—math tutoring, wedding singing and dog walking, among others—and included contact numbers. The bank's logo and a message about catering to small firms was at the bottom.
'I Didn't Lose Anything'

But even free publicity may have no end result. Math tutor Travis Macy, who is also a high school teacher, says he didn't land any new customers despite getting a flurry of inquiries from the bank's billboards. "None of them were a suitable client because of time constraints or subject matter or price," Mr. Macy says. "But my investment was nothing…so I didn't lose anything."

Cost isn't the only consideration in a collaborative ad campaign, says Paul Weber, president of Entrepreneur Advertising Group LLC., in Kansas City, Mo., which specializes in small-business marketing. One risk is whether the brands can coexist and, if there are multiple partners, whether the brands dilute each other. For example, a mail campaign that contains a stack of individual coupons isn't as beneficial as a campaign that focuses on the businesses as a collective community.

"If you're sharing the cost of a rotating billboard, [audiences] can separate the two," he says. "But if you are putting them together and telling customers that if you like this, you'll like that, make sure to do your due diligence."

School Bus Advertising being considered in NJ

Asbury Park Press

TRENTON — Yellow may no longer be the predominant color of school buses in New Jersey.

The Assembly Education Committee advanced a measure Thursday allowing ads on the outside of the buses.

The bill would not allow ads for tobacco or alcohol products or political advocacy.

The state education commissioner would get the final say about any potentially offensive ads.

Boards of education would have to use half the revenue to defray fuel costs for student busing. The other half could go toward school programs or services.

A similar bill went nowhere in the prior legislative session, but that was before Gov. Chris Christie cut $812 million from the education budget.

15 September 2010

EBay to Focus on Exports, Cross-Border China Trades, CEO Says‏


EBay Inc., the owner of e-commerce sites and the PayPal payment service, plans to focus on exports and cross-border trades involving China instead of competing in the domestic market, Chief Executive Officer John Donahoe said.

“Over time, we will look for opportunities to partner or joint venture or work together with Chinese companies,” Donahoe, 50, said in an interview today in Hangzhou, China. “We’ve, in essence, exited the domestic market.”

Cross-border trades will probably rise more than 80 percent to $4 billion this year, Donahoe said. EBay is counting on PayPal and partnerships with local companies to help it expand revenue from China after failing to gain a local foothold to compete against entrepreneur Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

“We don’t think the battle with Alibaba over the next five years is a game breaker,” said Bill Smead, an EBay investor who manages $160 million at Smead Capital Management Inc. in Seattle. “The story is way bigger than that little bit of duking it out.”

Although competition from Alibaba is stiff, EBay’s efforts in China, which has more Internet users than the total U.S. population, could pay big rewards, Smead said.

Donahoe said Alibaba Group and its Alipay system shouldn’t be seen as rivals to EBay and PayPal. PayPal now has 1 million users in China, he said. Alibaba Group said its rival Alipay system has 300 million registered users in the world’s largest market by Internet users.

Alibaba Domination

“Alibaba dominates the Chinese domestic market,” Donahoe said in the interview. “We are the leading cross-border global e-commerce and payments network. I don’t view Alibaba as a competitor. I view them as a colleague and a potential partner.”

Donahoe is in Hangzhou, headquarters of Alibaba, to speak at Alibaba’s annual Netrepreneur Summit. Donahoe said he met with Ma last night and the two appeared on stage at the summit, seated in armchairs, joking with each other. Ma turns 46 today and Donahoe wished him a happy birthday.

“EBay can support us globally so we can build a website on which small and medium-sized enterprises from China can sell to the world,” Ma said.

EBay first entered China in 2002 under the leadership of former CEO and current California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. Competition from Taobao.com, Alibaba’s auction business, saw EBay’s market share decline by half and it shut down its site in 2006.

Donahoe joined EBay in 2005 as president of its Marketplaces unit from Bain & Co., where he was worldwide managing director. He became CEO in March 2008.

China Venture

Today, EBay operates in China through a joint venture with Tom Online Inc., controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing, in addition to PayPal.

“U.S. Internet companies have had difficulty entering the China market due to both political reasons and cultural differences,” Galant Ng, a Hong Kong-based Internet analyst at Tai Fook Securities, said in an interview. “They may have to use something other than a direct approach. Maybe strategic partnership is the way. Alibaba is a good strategic partner.”

14 September 2010

Oprah Winfrey asks John Travolta to fly her Audience to Australia

Telegraph UK

Oprah Winfrey began the final season of her talk show with a dramatic gift to her audience - announcing she would fly them all to Australia, with Hollywood star John Travolta piloting the aircraft.

The 300 members of the audience went wild when Winfrey announced the eight-day trip on the first show of her final season, which was aired on US television on Monday.

"We're...going...to...Australia!" Winfrey announced to the shrieking crowd.

As confetti fell and her set was transformed into a mini airport, complete with a plane and worker with glow sticks to guide it onto the set, the audience leapt up and down.

Later John Travolta emerged from the jet and it was revealed he will be the pilot.

The actor is a part-time pilot for the Australian airline Qantas.

Winfrey and Travolta have been planning the trip for a year to mark the end of the chat show queen's hugely popular show.

Winfrey is ending her show after a 25 year run to launch her own TV network in 2011.

The Australian trip offer follows a similar give away when Winfrey gave a car to each member of her audience in 2004.

In Monday's show Winfrey addressed the audience at her Chicago studios by telling them: "This is really my last chance to do something really big.

"And if you want to do something big, you would want to take along your ultimate viewers."

"I started to think about where would I most want to go.

"Maybe I should take all of you with me to the other side of the world…We're going to Australia! We are going to Australia! You and you and you and you, are going to Australia!"

`Call of Duty' Video Game Trains Brains for Fast, Accurate Decision-Making


Playing action video games primes the brain to make quick decisions and could be incorporated into training programs for surgeons or soldiers, a study found.

The researchers tested 18- to 25-year-olds who weren’t regular video-game players. One group spent 50 hours playing the “The Sims 2,” a slow-paced strategy game published by Electronic Arts Inc. The other group took on “Call of Duty 2,” a combat game sold by Activision Blizzard Inc., or “Unreal Tournament,” a shooter game developed by Epic Games. The subjects then performed timed computer tasks, according to the report published today in the journal Current Biology.

In the problem-solving exercise, the action-game players made decisions 25 percent faster than the strategy group, while answering the same number of questions correctly. The findings suggest that games simulating stressful events or battles could be a training tool for speeding reactions in real-world situations, according to researchers at the University of Rochester in New York led by Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive scientist.

“It’s not the case that the action game players are trigger-happy and less accurate: They are just as accurate and also faster,” Bavelier said in a statement. “Action game players make more correct decisions per unit time. If you are a surgeon or you are in the middle of a battlefield, that can make all the difference.”

The experiment builds on previous research by Bavelier showing that video-game players surveying a scene gather more- detailed visual information than non-gamers. The brain constantly uses sensory information to calculate probabilities. Action gamers collect visual and auditory data more efficiently than non-gamers, arriving at decisions faster, the authors said.

As a result, playing fast-paced video games may improve everyday skills such as driving, tracking friends in a crowd and reading small print, the scientists concluded.

13 September 2010

NBC All Action, No Talk as Network Tries to Rebound


A year after its ratings debacle with comedian Jay Leno, NBC has changed course and will air prime-time shows from some of Hollywood’s most expensive producers when the new television season begins this month.

General Electric Co.’s entertainment unit, the least- watched major broadcast network for six straight years, opened its coffers to attract Jerry Bruckheimer and J.J. Abrams, and is introducing seven new shows to recover from last season’s failed experiment with Leno’s talk show in prime time.

“It was time to reinvest,” Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal TV Entertainment, said in an interview. “We had spent the last several years shrinking our business by looking at the economics and maybe we went too far.”

NBC programmers probably had to earmark $125 million to $150 million for new-show development, about double last year’s total, according to researcher Jack Myers of the Jack Myers Media Business Report. Angela Bromstad, president of prime-time entertainment, declined to say how much NBC spent for new shows or how much Bruckheimer and Abrams commanded.

The network, which cable-TV company Comcast Corp. agreed to buy in a merger now before U.S. regulators, is replacing almost a third of its weekly prime-time lineup, with 6.5 hours of new shows. The network isn’t aiming to topple first place CBS Corp. or No. 2 Fox, owned by News Corp. Success would mean climbing out of last and dislodging Walt Disney Co.’s ABC from third.

“Our real competition is ABC,” Bromstad said in an interview.

‘Immediate Attention’

To that end, New York-based NBC sought high-powered talent associated with CBS and ABC. “The Chase,” about U.S. Marshals, is from Bruckheimer, producer of CBS’s “CSI” series. The network also paid up for the husband-wife spy thriller “Undercovers” by Abrams, creator of ABC’s “Lost.”

“We really wanted to get into business with outside producers who could give us the kinds of shows that will get immediate attention,” Bromstad said.

In addition, NBC dropped the long-running “Law and Order” and picked up the spinoff “Law & Order: Los Angeles” from franchise producer Dick Wolf. NBC starts the season Sept. 14.

The biggest changes are at 10 p.m., with new programs “Chase,” “Outlaw” and the latest “Law and Order” on three nights as the network tries to win back viewers who left during the Leno run that ended in February. At 9 p.m. Mondays NBC is airing “The Event,” a global conspiracy thriller in the mold of Fox’s “24.”

“NBC has to climb out of a pretty big hole,” said Andy Donchin, director of media investments at Carat North America, a New York-based advertising agency whose clients include Papa John’s International Inc. “Every network would like a hit every year. NBC needs a hit and a half, or two.”

Last-Season Ratings

In the season that ended in May, NBC placed last in total audience with 8.26 million viewers nightly, compared with ABC’s 8.71 million, according to Nielsen Co. data. In the 18-to-49- year-old age group that advertisers target, just 20,000 viewers separated ABC, with 3.58 million viewers, from fourth-place NBC.

Those ratings represent a recovery from NBC’s earlier 2010 lows, before the Vancouver Olympics, when the audience had shrunk 13 percent in total viewers and 17 percent in 18 to 49, based on Nielsen data at the time.

Donchin, who says his agency buys time on almost every prime-time show, is especially high on NBC’s newest “Law and Order” because of its “pedigree.” He is less certain about the rest of the NBC lineup.

ABC Remake

ABC isn’t standing still. After suffering the steepest audience loss of all major networks last season, Burbank, California-based Disney replaced programming chief Steve McPherson in July with Paul Lee, who previously ran the ABC family channel on cable. The network is also adding seven shows.

The programs include “No Ordinary Family,” about a family that develops super powers while on vacation in the Amazon. The show will air before ABC’s most-watched “Dancing With the Stars” on Tuesday nights. The gritty crime drama “Detroit 1-8- 7” follows “Dancing.”

On Wednesdays, ABC will air the comedy newcomer “Better With You” at 8:30 p.m., ahead of last year’s returning hit “Modern Family.”

“The goal this year is to grow with successes like ‘Modern Family’ or to stay even, and even that is getting harder to do every year in this business,” Jeff Bader, ABC Entertainment’s executive vice president of planning, said in an interview.

While NBC is targeting ABC, Fox may stand in the way.

‘Glee’ Club

Fox, which led in 18 to 49 last season, is moving the musical comedy “Glee” to 8 p.m. Tuesdays in its second season to anchor a comedy night that includes “Raising Hope,” about a single dad who finds he has fathered a child with a woman who is in jail.

They will challenge the returning NBC show “The Biggest Loser.”

“‘Glee’ gives us a chance to create a comedy block on Tuesday night, where there isn’t much comedy now,” Preston Beckman, Fox TV Entertainment’s executive vice-president of strategic programming, said in an interview.

The two networks also will battle on Mondays, when Fox airs “Lone Star,” a soap opera featuring newcomer James Wolk as a charismatic Texas schemer, against “The Event.” “Lone Star” may benefit by following the high-rated medical drama “House,” Beckman said.

New York-based CBS, the leader in total viewers, also may thwart NBC with the action-charged remake of “Hawaii Five-0” on Mondays against “Chase.” The original show with Jack Lord ran from 1968 to 1980.

CBS also moved “The Big Bang Theory,” its top 10-rated Monday night sitcom about geeks, to Thursdays at 8 p.m., before the NBC comedies “30 Rock” and “The Office.”

The aim is to generate viewers for "$#*! My Dad Says,” featuring former “Star Trek” captain William Shatner as a politically incorrect dad, said Kelly Kahl, senior executive vice president of prime time at CBS.

“We can schedule most of our shows behind proven successes,” Kahl said in an interview. “We don’t really have to cross our fingers.”

10 September 2010

The NFL's Most Popular Team

The Wall Street Journal
A Study Ranks All 32 in TV Viewers and Online Cachet; and the Winner Is…

The New York Giants generate more online buzz than any other National Football League team but garner just about the lowest local-TV ratings. Every grandmother in Cincinnati watches the Bengals when they're on TV, but the rest of the country doesn't seem to realize they exist. And then there are the Jacksonville Jaguars, who, no matter how you look at it, don't seem to have accumulated much fan support of any kind.

The NFL season begins Thursday night as the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints host Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings. This game will pull a national-TV rating that's huge by sports standards: If precedent holds it will likely outdraw most games of Major League Baseball's World Series.

But as prolific as the NFL has become in its ability to divert eyeballs to televisions, there are substantial differences in the relative popularity of its 32 teams. Everybody knows the Green Bay Packers have a devoted and frostbitten following, for instance, but what about the Atlanta Falcons?

In a first-of-its-kind study performed this summer, Nielsen Co., the media-research firm, developed a system for ranking the popularity of NFL teams based on each team's local and national TV rankings, how often they're mentioned on the Internet and how many visitors they attract to their official websites. The report, dubbed the Nielsen Sports Media Exposure Index, is the company's first attempt to classify pro-football teams in this manner.

Not surprisingly, the survey confirms that America's team is, in fact, "America's Team," as in the Dallas Cowboys. In the final ranking, they were a stunning 23% more popular than the No. 2 team, their old rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Giants were next, followed by three of the four teams in the NFC's North division: the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers and the Vikings.

The Cowboys are on top in part because they're popular to begin with. Nielsen counted the total number of viewers of a team's national broadcasts from last season, rather than the average. So in most cases the more a team was picked to play in front of a national audience, the better it did. The Cowboys, who led the league last year with six national appearances, had a whopping 117 million viewers.

Bill Wanger, the executive vice president of programming and research at Fox Sports Media Group, says the Cowboys are among a handful of "national-appeal teams" that draw huge TV ratings no matter what market they're broadcast in. The Cowboys also were helped in the study by the massive amount of traffic their website draws—nearly 50% more monthly unique visitors than the second-place Steelers.

On the other end of the spectrum, five of the eight teams in the NFL's two West divisions are in the bottom 10 of the overall rankings. This includes the St. Louis Rams, who, on top of averaging an embarrassing two wins per year over the past three seasons, finished last in this report. They have the worst mark in two of the categories and were in the bottom six in the others.

"When you've won as much as we have recently, it's not surprising," says Kevin Demoff, the Rams' executive vice president of football operations and chief operating officer. But it's not as though the Rams are incapable of being popular. When they reached multiple Super Bowls a decade ago, "everybody in the city loved us," says Hall of Fame-caliber running back Marshall Faulk, who played on those teams.

The Nielsen report uses one year of data, but separate research from the past two decades has shown similar results. Harris Interactive, a New York market-research firm, has been asking respondents to name their favorite NFL team annually since 1992. The Cowboys came out No. 1 on 11 occasions in that poll and were never lower than No. 4. The Rams, since they moved to St. Louis in 1995, were in the bottom five on five occasions. The only teams that fared worse than the Rams were the Bengals and the Jaguars. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished next-to-last in the Nielsen study.

The Jaguars declined to comment. A spokesman for the Bengals said the team would likely perform better in these rankings next year, and a Bucs spokesman said the faltering Tampa economy likely played a large role in recent struggles to attract fans.

study shows a winning tradition doesn't guarantee a large fan base. Two of the NFL's more successful and iconic franchises, the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers, finished near the bottom of the rankings despite owning a combined eight Super Bowl titles (representatives for the teams couldn't be reached for comment).

Despite the healthy rankings for the Packers and the Saints (No. 9), the study suggests being in a smaller media market presents some challenges. Five of the bottom 10 teams hail from Charlotte, Kansas City, Jacksonville, Tampa and St. Louis.

That said, it's not clear what to say about the New York Jets. (They finished No. 18).

08 September 2010

How Far Can Oprah's Universe Reach?

The Wall Street Journal
Oprah Sets Up Decorating Guru Nate Berkus With His Own Show, Betting Her Fans Will Follow

At a rehearsal for his new daytime TV show, Nate Berkus had a problem. A set of 25 paper placemats he was about to pitch to viewers cost $40. "I think that's too much money," he said during the walk through. He sent producers scrambling to track down a $1 roll of wrapping paper that could be cut into perfect rectangles. Now, Mr. Berkus faces a far bigger problem: Launching a talk show at a time when millions of women are watching less and less television during the day.

The 38-year-old interior designer is getting the biggest launch possible in daytime television. Oprah Winfrey is rewarding Mr. Berkus with his own show after he has appeared regularly on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" for the past eight years. On Sept. 13, Sony Pictures Television and Ms. Winfrey's production company Harpo Studios will roll out "The Nate Berkus Show," a syndicated talk show aimed at Ms. Winfrey's legions of devoted viewers.

Mr. Berkus, part design expert, part self-help guru, fashions himself as the everyman interior designer. He favors soft neutral hues mixed with loud pillows, warm rugs and vintage lamps. "I've never been the snobby decorator guy," he said last month as he reclined in his dressing room on an L-shaped gray sofa, a graphic throw pillow he designed under his arm. "Everyone needs to turn their spaces and their lives into something that works for them."

Just as her book club has spawned dozens of best sellers, Ms. Winfrey has launched some of the biggest names in daytime TV. "Dr. Phil," "Rachael Ray," and "The Dr. Oz Show," started with appearances on "Oprah." The hosts have built empires of their own, sprouting magazines, self-help books and cookbooks.

"When the bird is ready to fly, she lets them go," says Sheri Salata, one of the two presidents at Harpo Studios.

It's a key time for the latest—and possibly the last—host to graduate from what the industry calls Oprah U. Next September, Ms. Winfrey will end "Oprah" after nearly three decades to focus on her new cable network, the Oprah Winfrey Network or OWN. Fans will face a daytime void, creating an opportunity for her handpicked crop of TV offspring.

"Oprah" is the ultimate, and one of the only, successful launching pads for daytime stars, says Steve Mosko, president of Sony Pictures Television. Most local television stations don't have the funds to launch their own talk shows—the way Ms. Winfrey got her start in Chicago. Daytime shows with big-name hosts like "On-Air with Ryan Seacrest," "The Sharon Osbourne Show" and "The Bonnie Hunt Show," have flopped in recent years.

"In a post-Oprah world, having a Harpo show with really the last talent featured on her show was attractive," says John Wallace, president of NBC Local Media, which purchased the rights to air "The Nate Berkus Show" on 10 NBC-owned stations nationwide. The show will air on a total of 177 local stations or in 96% of the country, according to Sony Pictures Television.

Harpo Studios executives noticed last year that when Mr. Berkus visited "Oprah" ratings spiked an average of 20% among the show's core demographic of women ages 25 to 54. "Nate has the ability to be himself which in itself is a gift in TV," Ms. Winfrey says. Plus, "he has great style and is a cutie pie."

The self-taught son of designer Nancy Golden, who appears on cable networks HGTV and DIY, Mr. Berkus worked at an auction house before he founded his own Chicago interior design firm at age 24. "He was the one in the kitchen with his mom when the rest of the kids were watching the football game," says his show's executive producer Terry Murphy.

The show is what Ms. Murphy calls "info-tainment." Each hour typically will include a celebrity interview, usually related to décor, as well as general lifestyle tips. Mr. Berkus will use a technology he calls the "Instant Design Studio," which is a screen similar to the one CNN's John King uses to show election results and on which Mr. Berkus can virtually redecorate rooms.

In a recently taped show at his New York set—made to look like a living-room with a wall of sparsely decorated white bookshelves, bunches of hydrangea and leather armchairs—Mr. Berkus gave a couple advice on preparing for a family reunion. He surprised a college freshman who grew up homeless with a fully furnished dorm room. "The bath caddy will change your life," he told the teen.

Television producers used to love talk shows because they were cheap to make and their advice-dispensing, celebrity-guest format created easy product placement opportunities. But these days advice-seekers can do a quick Internet search and reality TV has made celebrities ubiquitous.

In today's crowded marketplace, even the "Oprah" seal of approval won't guarantee huge ratings, says Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at Horizon Media, a media-planning and ad-placement firm. "Nate Berkus may be the syndication hit in 2010, but he's not going to be the new Oprah. No one is."

"Oprah" averaged about 6.5 million viewers daily in the season that ended in May, down from more than 10 million in the 1990s, according to Nielsen Co. Last season, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," considered a hit, drew about 3.2 million viewers daily, ratings that would have led to cancellation a decade ago.

The openly-gay Mr. Berkus fits into an increasingly common TV model. Recent shows like "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style" have successfully cast gay men as women-friendly style advisers. Advice from a female host can seem shrill, and from a straight man it may seem sexual, says Katherine Sender, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has written about reality TV and gay marketing. "From a gay man it's like sisterly advice."

Mr. Berkus, a Chicago-based interior designer, made his first appearance on "Oprah" in 2002, when producers asked him to redo a 319-square-foot studio apartment. He stayed up for 48 hours to complete the project, took out trash himself, and flagged down garbage men with $100 bills to help clear old appliances.

Ms. Winfrey and Mr. Berkus became closer two years later when his partner died in the Tsunami during a vacation in Sri Lanka. Ms. Winfrey helped raise money for charity in his partner's name.

To help Mr. Berkus prepare for 175 shows a year, Ms. Winfrey watched test shows, promos and reviewed plans for the set at the CBS Broadcast Center. She advised Mr. Berkus to keep his signature five o'clock shadow but dress nicer than the torn Levis and fitted tees he often wore on her show. She thought he should expand a segment called "Nate's Crate," in which he surprises recipients with the contents of a crate filled with giveaways from blueprints for a room makeover to a car.

Not everyone who appears on "Oprah" becomes a hit. Motivational speaker and "Oprah" guest Iyanla Vanzant's attempt to launch her own show "Iyanla" in 2001 was short-lived. "They tried to make her me," Ms. Winfrey says, explaining why the show failed. Ms. Vanzant agrees with Ms. Winfrey's assessment. "They molded me into something else. I wasn't innocent in all of it. I let them do it," she says.

And, of course, hosts like Rosie O'Donnell and Ms. DeGeneres are daytime successes without an "Oprah" launch.

Mr. Berkus says he's a "take-away guy," not a "tip-away guy." The difference, he says, is "'take away' is 'oh, I found this great idea and Nate will show me how to translate it into something that's my own.' 'Tip away' is you buy this and then you glue gun this and then you spray paint this."

At the recent taping, he called a giddy thirty-something women up on stage. She shrieked in humiliation when an image of her cluttered study popped up onto his "Instant Design Studio" screen. "No one is judging you," Mr. Berkus assured her as he swept his finger over an unused wall and transformed it into a built-in, white Pottery Barn bookshelf. The crowd let loose an "ahh!"

06 September 2010

Ad Agency of 31 years Drops Harley-Davidson

Associated Press

Harley-Davidson Inc.'s main ad agency for more than three decades has dropped the struggling motorcycle maker in favor of new business.

Ad agency Carmichael Lynch, a unit of Interpublic Group, said many factors went into the decision, including the fact that the Milwaukee-based motorcycle maker has slashed its marketing spending in recent years amid slumping sales.

Carmichael Lynch President Doug Spong said Harley-Davidson was also never a big spender on traditional advertising.

According to Kantar Media, Harley-Davidson spent about $11 million on television ads and other measured media last year, half its spending from 2007.

"It got to the point where we no longer felt we could take that brand forward," Spong said.

Although Harley-Davidson isn't a big spender on traditional media, the brand is one of the best known in the world with a loyal legion of fans who don the company's black-and-orange logo.

The company's fans may be fervent but its sales are not as people focus on necessities in the economic downturn. Harley-Davidson has been restructuring for more than a year. Last month it said sales of its motorcycles continued to fall in the second quarter, though the pace of declines eased. Worldwide retail sales fell 5.5 percent, a less-steep drop than the 18 percent first-quarter decline.

Harley-Davidson began its relationship with Minneapolis-based Carmichael Lynch in 1979 and had been the firm's second-oldest client.

The company said in a statement it has a big roster of ad agencies, and Chief Marketing Officer Mark-Hans Richer said the company feels good about its creative direction. It is making progress reaching new consumers including women and younger people. And it is shifting its marketing to more agencies as it goes after new riders in new ways, including online and through social networks.

"We haven't tried to be all things to all people," Richer said. "We tried to be what we are to more people and we're making progress on that front."

Carmichael Lynch, which has Subaru as a client, gave Harley its 90-day notice last Friday. That means the ties will be severed in late November.

Harley-Davidson said it will not conduct an agency review process or look to replace Carmichael Lynch.

Spong said none of the firm's 250 employees would be cut because their work would be shifted to new accounts, which he declined to name.

03 September 2010

A New Digital Battlefield

The Wall Street Journal
Amazon, Apple Rivalry Moves Beyond Music and E-Books Into TV Shows

TV shows are emerging as a new front in the war over digital media between Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc., amid their ongoing battles over electronic books and online music.

Hours after Apple said Wednesday that it would begin renting some shows for 99 cents per episode, Amazon cut its price on a similar set of shows to 99 cents from $2.99. And unlike Apple, which rents the videos, Amazon lets its customers buy the shows.

"When we see a competitive product available elsewhere, we make sure to match or beat that price," said Bill Carr, Amazon's vice president of music and video, in a Thursday interview. "Things are evolving rapidly."

Apple declined to comment on Amazon's pricing.

A price battle between the tech titans could help drive consumer interest in the nascent market for paid on-demand video over the Internet. But it could also drive away the media giants that Apple and Amazon are counting on to feed them with TV content. Some media executives worry low prices could eventually undermine the existing TV business.

For the past several years, Amazon and Apple have both offered services that let consumers buy or rent films over the Internet on a one-by-one basis and watch them on TVs, game consoles or portable devices. It's part of a wider race among cable-TV and satellite-TV providers and tech companies, including Netflix Inc. and Google Inc., to dominate the digital delivery of TV and movies.

That race heated up on Wednesday when Apple introduced an updated Apple TV set-top box for $99 and said it reached deals to offer rentals for a selection of TV shows from News Corp.'s Fox and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, ABC Family and Disney Channel, as well as BBC America.

TV networks haven't presented a united front when faced with Apple, Amazon and other tech companies that want to license their content. Already, some, such as Time Warner Inc., are aligning with cable and satellite TV operators to offer some shows on the Web only for their paying subscribers, while others such as General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal put episodes from a large number of their shows online for free viewing with ads. But even those positions are changing, with some media companies pulling back how much they offer free or working on paid subscription offerings of their own.

Apple has already discovered those divisions: While both News Corp. and Disney signed on to test its 99-cent TV-show rentals, other major media companies rejected the plan. Several executives said those rentals could be a step toward a world where people see less advertising or stop paying for cable subscriptions—two principal sources of revenue. (News Corp. owns The Wall Street Journal.)

The price war could lead at least some media companies to pull existing episodes sold at $1.99 from Apple, one media executive said.

"We're happy to sit back and see how it goes," said another media executive, who also suggested that competition between the two tech giants could be a boon. That executive said a major danger media companies face is allowing one player—like Apple—to gain too much power over the distribution of content, as it did with music. Amazon could provide a welcome challenge, the executive added.

Securing affordable video content is crucial in Apple's strategy to tout the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch as go-to multimedia devices.

The existing price of content—which can cost $2.99 apiece for a high definition TV show or $4.99 for a movie—is still a high barrier of entry when consumers can access many of the same shows free on websites such as Hulu, or as part of their Netflix subscription.

Amazon, the Web's largest retailer, has used aggressive price cuts on a variety of products to draw attention to its offerings and maintain its position as a low-price leader. The company today offers 75,000 movies and TV shows, which customers can watch on a variety of systems, from computers to TVs.

Mr. Carr declined to say what impact a price cut might have on adoption of digital video, and said it "remains to be seen" what an ideal price might be for video.

"The lower that they bring the cost, the more they will expand adoption," said David Krall, the chief operating officer of Roku Inc., a company that makes set-top boxes that play Amazon and other online content on TVs. "People compare the price to going to the DVD store to rent, and convenience of having to get in the car."

It remains to be seen whether the pricing rivalry will hurt Apple's dominate position in the space. According to Screen Digest, Apple accounts for 57% of transactions in Internet video-on-demand movies, on a number-of-sales basis, and 53% of the TV shows market, excluding sports. In contrast, Amazon is only 5% and 6% respectively.

Both Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp., through their videogame consoles, sell more online video than Amazon, according to Screen Digest. (The estimates exclude Netflix because it doesn't offer a-la-carte sales and rentals of movies and TV shows over the Internet.)

One advantage that Apple has in these early days is that it has many products through which consumers can view the content. By contrast, on the digital book front, the competition between Apple and the online retailer is more intense in part because Amazon had Kindle, an e-book reader that it had been selling long before the iPad. Mr. Carr declined to comment on whether Amazon was interested in making its own devices for watching digital video.

"We don't believe Amazon's price cutting on TV shows will materially affect Apple's overall market share," said Arash Amel, Screen Digest's digital media research director. "ITunes rarely gets sucked into a price-war, given their position as the market-leader."

Amazon has had mixed success with its past digital media efforts. Its digital music business, in which it also uses aggressive pricing, has what analysts estimate is about 12% of the digital music market.

Moreover, the TV discounting costs Amazon because the company will continue to pay the companies the same wholesale price per episode that it paid before the retail-price cut, said media executives.

In the short run, a price cut could help Disney and News Corp., if Amazon sells more episodes while paying them each the same wholesale price. But some media executives and analysts believe the proliferation of lower prices could start to devalue electronic TV shows more broadly.

"It further ingrains in the consumers' mind the idea that a TV show is only worth 99 cents," said Evercore media and entertainment analyst Alan Gould.

Amazon is also interested in challenging players such as Netflix with a subscription service that would deliver TV shows and movies over the Internet. In recent weeks, Amazon has pitched a Web-based subscription service to several major media companies.

Mr. Carr declined to comment on the idea of a subscription service.

The entire business of selling episodes of TV shows through services like Apple's and Amazon's is expected to generate only $407 million in 2010, according to Screen Digest. Meanwhile, U.S. consumers and advertisers will spend about $143 billion on traditional TV advertising and subscriptions in 2010, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Disney Reaches Deal With Time Warner Cable, Bright House

The Wall Street Journal

Walt Disney Co. said it reached a long-term agreement that will provide customers of cable-television providers Time Warner Cable Inc. and Bright House Networks Inc. with a wide swath of programming from Disney's units.

The companies didn't disclose financial details, but media giants such as Disney have been gaining an increasing share of their revenue from fees paid by cable, satellite and fiber video providers.

The deal—called Disney's most expansive content agreement so far—includes the recently announced Disney Junior, a new 24-hour basic channel for preschool-age children, parents and caregivers that will debut in 2012; ESPN3.com, ESPN's live sports broadband network; a new authenticated service that will let subscribers watch ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU through their broadband services as well as mobile Internet devices; and a new super-highlight channel, developed with Time Warner Cable, called ESPN Goal Line, that will take fans around the best matchups each Saturday during the NCAA football season. A similar service called ESPN Buzzer Beater will be available for the college basketball season.

"We are pleased to have reached an agreement without any interruption in service," said Time Warner Cable Chairman and Chief Executive Glenn Britt.

Several cable providers have come to standoffs that threatened their subscribers' access to major events before striking new deals with media companies in the past few years.

Time Warner Cable, the second-largest cable operator in the U.S., was involved in a high-profile war with News Corp. over rights fees that threatened to black out Fox on its systems in January. News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal.

Then, Disney threatened to pull the signal of its New York ABC affiliate from more than 3 million Cablevision Systems Corp. customers if it didn't receive more compensation. After U.S lawmakers threatened to intervene, the two sides reached an agreement in time for viewers in New York to see ABC's March telecast of the Academy Awards.

Time Warner Cable serves the New York City area, southern California, Texas, Ohio and the Carolinas. Bright House Networks, the ninth-largest U.S. multichannel video programmer distributor, has 2.4 million customers in several large cities, including Tampa Bay and Orlando, Fla.; Indianapolis; Detroit; and Birmingham, Ala.