The Olympics has been both fabulous and frustrating. It’s been a great games with some fascinating stories of triumph and heartbreak but NBC has once gain contrived to make it near impossible for you to watch the games real time. Sure you can watch a lot online but not everything. It’s also frustrating to know that there are other content providers such as the BBC who have the content you want but to find you simply can’t access it because of rights issues. Put another way, the content you want has been created but the ability to access it on demand doesn’t exist. Yesterday’s mens 100m final was a great example. This event wasn’t shown live, instead you had to wait until almost midnight to watch the tape delayed version. CRAZY!!!! Of course the Olympics are a rare event and the prices paid by people like NBC require them to find ways of getting their money back BUT their approach is the same as many other content owners – force people to either watch it when we want them to or access it later via tape delay or some on demand service. There appears to be no other option. You can’t even click a button that says: ‘watch live for $5’. All this got me thinking about how much other content is out there that people would like to access but they don’t because it’s just too hard to get. In these Google and youtube infused days it seems crazy to be struggling to access content but we do. Some of the problem is that searching is still too dependent on our ability to describe what we are looking for and the other part is there aren’t always systems that allow us to see the content when we find it. Madness. What we need is the technology to find the right content AND the technology to allow you to access it. Here in California I have access to a mass of TV content that I don’t consume and don’t even want to consume. I’d gladly substitute 99% of the unwanted content for another few percent of content I do want. This all reminds me a paper Theodore Levitt wrote where he mentioned that people don’t want to buy fuel for their cars, they simply want to be able to drive somewhere. In other words they would never care if they saw the fuel. Likewise I don’t care what content I am given access to, I simply want the content I want. Of the hundreds of channels on my TV I could have three or four and be perfectly happy if those channels had just the stuff I want. In other words I want someone to do to the TV what Spotify has done to music. Now Netflix is trying to get there but even that has a long way to go.
I should be clear though, my argument is not just about TV content it’s about all manner of content that currently exists on the web that is either hard to find or restricted in terms of who can access it. Hence my belief that we are now in an era where the content creators have done a great job of generating material but those responsible for enabling us to access it have a LONG way to go. But when we get there we are going to experience events in a very different and even more exciting way. Until then, I’ll just have to put up with Bob Costas and NBC for a bit longer.
If you Google the best Super Bowl ads, the one thing that all the lists of ads have in common is that majority of so called ‘top ads’ are designed to make us laugh. I’ve been involved in marketing for several decades and at no point have I come across research that says if you make people laugh they will then go out an buy your product. Which then begs the question do the agencies create funny ads because these ads work, because they enjoy making funny ads, or because such ads win awards? I suspect the answer is ‘all of the above’.
The fact that the most expensive ads of the year are also the most amusing does make me wonder if marketers are missing an opportunity for the other 364 days of the year (actually 365 this year). Why isn’t humor used routinely? Why instead do most ads try and stimulate some other emotion such as fear (ING – what’s your number, All State’s Mayhem ads)? Watch the Acura ad from this year’s Super Bowl that featured Jerry Seinfeld and the car barely gets a look in. This may be because you can’t yet buy the car, or because they paid so much to get Seinfeld that they want their money’s worth. Whatever the reason, the humor makes you remember the ad. This is more likely the reason. Again though, why don’t more ads make you smile?
I don’t watch much live TV. Indeed the Super Bowl is one of the few times I watch a live broadcast and even then, I’m hardly gripped. I am British after all. I know the ‘live’ piece is a major reason why the ads are so highly priced. You have a massive audience that is watching live, rather than recording it to watch it later. This means that few people are doing what I do normally – fast-forwarding through the ads. But would we fast-forward through ads if they were a part of the entertainment in the same way Super Bowl ads have become? I suspect many would not.
Back in the late 1980s I recall going to movie theaters at least 10 minutes before the start time so I could watch the adverts from people like Levi’s. This was a golden era for advertising. Adverts were made by the likes of Ridley Scott and they were visually stunning and generally entertaining. They were in short a part of the event, not an annoyance you sought a way around.
As marketers look to embrace digital channels I wonder if there is a lesson in here. Should we be ensuring that we make the marketing channels as engaging as the content the customer is really looking for when they go online? You bet. This is of course why so many brands are trying to crack social marketing. Again though, I do wonder if brands are missing a trick. So many brands that have engaged through channels such as Facebook and Twitter do so in a relatively serious way. I’d urge these brands to think again and look at those funny TV ads. After all, we like to remember the good times. So if brands want to be ‘Liked’ perhaps they need to focus more on making us smile 🙂
TV shows like 30 Rock, The Office, Modern Family etc have all come to an end for the summer and will kick off again in September. The break is a well established system for sitcoms and drama series. It gives the actors a chance to have a break and the writers a chance to create new material during the months where viewers spend less time in front of their TVs and more time outdoors. For those still glued to their screeens there’s plenty of reruns to keep them happy. At least that’s the theory. But with more and more people spending time online versus sitting in front of their TVs and with more people using their smartphones as a means of accessing the internet, there is a real danger that during this summer hiatus, viewers will find more reasons to avoid their TVs and unlike migratory birds, not return. After all, Facebook and Twitter don’t show rerun updates and tweets over the summer. Can you imagine of they did?
For this reason I wonder whether the networks need to rethink the summer hiatus. I can see it being tough to change and it brings with it a fresh set of challenges. One of the benefits of having short seasons and breaks is that low quality content and production values get the boot. We’ve all noticed when a show runs out of ideas – Happy Days, invented the expression ‘Jumping the shark’ which means a show has taken things too far and lost the plot, when it had the Fonzie, literally jump a shark on water skis. We can also tell when actors tire of a role. So perhaps there is a role for the break. Perhaps the formula is what needs a rethink. Instead of putting all the best shows in the Spring and Fall, they could experiment by putting some of the stronger shows during the summer to keep the eyeballs on the TV and off their computer screens. After all, I’ll say it again, can you imagine if Facebook and Twitter took a summer break? Bring on the re-retweet. Not.