According the the Wall Street Journal this AM, NBC Hopes Live Spot Puts Life Into Ads, “To fight the challenge posed by TiVo, NBC is borrowing a tactic from television’s early days — live commercials.” Back in April 15, 2005, I wrote an article, Product Placement on the Down Low, about how product placement and advertising needs to stop being so sneaky, so on the down low.
“I love product placement because it reminds me of the radio shows of the 30s and 40s, which I love. Why should there be any shame surrounding product placement? I honestly believe that most people don’t care. Those who do, live in the urban centers and are loud and obnoxious. Ignore them.
In the radio shows, there was a level of healthy and straight forward communication that Madison Avenue no longer employs:
the price of this free entertainment is having sponsors, selling products and services (Horlicks, anyone?), promoting upcoming movies (why else would the stars be there?), and the like.“
David Letterman has been doing a lot of this on his show and I find it hilarious. I feel like I am complicit with the agenda: selling goods, having fun, leveraging our trust in Dave, and getting yet another skit, which is what we watch late night TV for anyway. Again, from Product Placement on the Down Low:
“To me, embedding products deep into the show so that they don’t glare just means the industry is becoming more sophisticated and not more covert. It is not about sneaking message so much as it about not inconveniencing the viewer. It is about giving more than you take. It is all about flow, seamlessness, mediadynamics.
I love product placement because it reminds me of the radio shows of the 30s and 40s, which I love. Why should there be any shame surrounding product placement? I honestly believe that most people don’t care. Those who do, live in the urban centers and are loud and obnoxious. Ignore them.”
At some point back in the 50s, the entire Madison Avenue “science of advertising” took the broadcasting world by storm. Instead of having an entire program sponsored by one corporate sponsor such as Horlicks, the model changed into a advertising blight of the 30-second and 60-second commercial spot. More from Product Placement on the Down Low:
“I honestly believe that someone with a lot of influence and charm has sold Madison Avenue that the only way to advertise and market is delivering client message using subliminals and NLP — the kind that is supposed to register on the subconscious level.”
The reincarnation of the sponsored program, the up-front sponsored testimonial, and the transparent product placement — the evolution towards integrated, live, transparent, and testimonial advertisements — was again heralded by radio. Again. I noticed this happening years ago, beginning with conservative and AM talk radio.
Back in April 7, 2006, I wrote an article that addressed these spots — I love them! The article, Purina ONE is Role Model for Word-Of-Mouth Marketing, discusses the aggressive and effective radio testimonial campaign that Purina One Natural Blends dog food shoe horns so elegantly and sentimentally into the radio shows of two radio shows I loved back in 2006, the Glen Beck Program and Jack Diamond Morning Show.
Then, after a while of spinning a warm, charming, yarn, they reveal that it wasn’t until Purina One that their really stopped shedding, started acting like a puppy again, started having a glow, and began to have clear and shiny doggie eyes!
It is such a fantastic testimony by each men and I love listening to each of the respective emotional break in their respective radio announcer’s voice when they offer this heart felt Purina One testimonial. And then, we find out that we don’t have to take their word for it, we can call 888-606-BARK for a free 6.5 pound bag of Purina One Natural Blends dog food.
Do I feel betrayed? Used? No! I love it.
There is a sweet old world charm as though I were suddenly thrust into the Jack Benny Program. There is a lightness of being in their respective stories that don’t require me to care about the advertising or care about the salesmanship, it is the fact that these men are really likeable and we trust them and listen to them and hey, you have to pay the bills and we would rather enjoy their charm and warmth (and they do own dogs, after all — it isn’t a lie!) than the awful commercial breaks.
We hate these commercial breaks. We would rather our sweet DJ, our sweet host, hock the free 6.5 pound bag of Purina One Natural Blends dog food than leave it to someone we don’t know.”
I am curious as to why both broadcasters and advertisers are so ashamed of advertising and of their product. I may be a freak, but I love paging through my favorite magazines, looking at the watches, the cars, and the homes that fuel all of my obsessive work and red-hot single-minded ambition. Even more from Product Placement on the Down Low:
“I am sure it was a genius doctor of clinical psychology who did the research and discovered that there are some message delivery vehicles against which we have no protection.
And that is true, of course.
But I like ads and most of my friends watch them. Half the fun of paging through most magazines is looking at what people are selling. Investing a little in the fantasy of the glossy Rolex ad for the GMT-II Oyster Perpetual in solid gold!
As I wrote back in June 21, 2005 in A Return to Sponsored Programming ala Radio Shows,
“It is time to return to what works, when you can share the “inside joke” with your audience that a lot of what is going on on the show is to sppease the sponsor.
A little bit of fun on the sponsor’s expense show the viewers that the sponsor is big, funloving, harmless, and can take a joke.
That the corporate sponsor is just a regular guy.”
I think that NBC is being super smart. I don’t know if anyone has been discussing David Letterman’s playful inline product placement, but I noticed, and it made me happy and made me feel like I was in on the joke.
‘So, before everybody spends all their time going on the down low with their advertising and marketing, it is also important to explore the up and up as well. Oftentimes, stating loud and proud, “this is my product and I think you should buy it because it is better, different, cooler, newer, lighter, sturdier, more stylish, more reliable, and safer than anything else, and here’s why.” ‘
Back to NBC Hopes Live Spot Puts Life Into Ads, here are some pretty telling excerpts you might want to read, after my egocentric briefing:
‘Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Tonight Show” will air a live skit promoting car satellite-navigation devices made by Garmin International. The skit will air immediately before the show goes to commercial break. There, the message will be reinforced with a taped spot for Garmin taking the first slot in the break.
Live TV ads were standard in the 1950s, when most shows aired live and the advertising message would often be delivered by the star of a program. But live-to-air spots fell out of favor over time; “The Tonight Show” last ran a live spot in 1995. NBC’s decision to try the live Garmin spot comes as networks are casting about for ways to keep viewers watching commercials, in a time when digital video recorders such as TiVo allow viewers to speed through ads while watching a program they’ve recorded earlier.
For “Tonight Show” viewers, Garmin’s ad will be hard to miss. The skit will appear shortly before the show is due to go to its second commercial break, and “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno will toss to the commercial. At that point, Mr. Leno’s announcer, John Melendez, will don a lab coat — with Garmin’s logo on it — and mock-seriously discuss the perils of “Direction Disorder” — men’s reluctance to ask for directions, according to the script for the ad.
As Mr. Melendez explains the disorder, a large video screen in the background will show a man in a car asking gas-station attendants for directions. The attendants point in opposite directions and laugh, leaving the driver “looking helplessly at the camera.” At the end of the skit, Mr. Melendez will announce: “But now there’s a cure,” as the video screen reveals the logo for a Garmin device.
“For us, it was just a way to TiVo-proof our advertising,” says Ted Gartner, media relations manager at Garmin International.
Pressure on networks to deal with TiVo and similar devices — now in 17% of U.S. homes, according to Nielsen Media Research — has ratcheted up in the past several months. Nielsen last month began releasing ratings measuring the viewership of commercial breaks, as opposed to the programs. While marketers have long worried about people skipping their ads, Nielsen’s new ratings are providing hard evidence of just how much DVRs reduce viewing of their ads.
Nielsen’s introduction of “commercial” ratings has helped delay “upfront” negotiations for next season’s ad time between networks and advertisers, which usually start after the networks present their schedules to advertisers in May. This year, the negotiations have been slow to gain traction. Some media buyers expect the deal-making to pick up steam in the next few days, however.
The Garmin deal “obviously is a reaction to the DVR issue and a reaction to commercial ratings,” says Marianne Gambelli, executive vice president, sales and marketing, for NBC Universal. Marketers are increasingly looking for these types of ad deals, she adds.
Garmin hopes to magnify its message by twinning the live spot with the conventional ad in the commercial break. In the past, when NBC has integrated a product into the story line of a show and given the marketer the first ad slot in the commercial break, research has shown advertising recall jumps by “40% to 50%,” Ms. Gambelli says.
NBC says it’s looking to expand use of the live commercials during late-night TV and sees the Garmin ad as a test. Not that they’ll appear a lot. “You want to keep it unique,” Ms. Gambelli notes.
In recent months, other networks have tried an array of other gimmicks to keep viewers watching through commercial breaks, including adding quizzes and short videos.’
The final paragraph of the Wall Street Journal article says it best:
“We have killed and mauled the golden goose of commercial breaks,” says TV historian and author Tim Brooks. “For a long time, the audience has put up with it, but now they have the ability to dodge commercial breaks, so networks can’t get away with it any more.”