Gathering his thoughts about scatter

Oct 15, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The long view and an informed perspective are what Joe Ostrow brings to any discussion of the scatter market and the larger TV advertising marketplace in these unsettled and unsettling times. Mr. Ostrow, whose career includes more than three decades with Young & Rubicam and a tour as the senior executive responsible for Foote, Cone & Belding’s worldwide media operations, has been president and CEO of the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau since August 1994. What follows are excerpts from a dialogue between Mr. Ostrow and Electronic Media that took place shortly after the start of the allied military campaign in Afghanistan.
EM: Is this year’s scatter market more or less important than in previous years?
Mr. Ostrow: The scatter market this year is more important because of the upheavals in society that affect marketing. I think people will need the flexibility that a scatter market provides more than they’ve ever needed it.
EM: Which categories have pulled back or do you expect to pull back from the marketplace? Which categories are you still relying on?
Mr. Ostrow: That’s a tough one. I expect that automotive and pharmaceutical will continue to be very strong even though they may be down.
EM: Which segment of the television industry do you expect to be impacted the most negatively in the present unsettled environment?
Mr. Ostrow: In this kind of environment, the advertiser is looking to get the most bang for his or her buck. That is defined not only by the most value for the dollar but the most targeted value for the dollar. That’s what cable really offers. Therefore, I think we are going to be impacted more favorably, or less negatively, depending on how you want to put it. The media that have more generalized audiences are going to be hurt the worst, because the marketer can’t be as rifle-shot-oriented in targeting.
EM: How has the World Trade Center tragedy affected advertising and the prospects for the fourth quarter in particular?
Mr. Ostrow: It has just caused people to slow down and look around at more basic issues. The reality is that’s why the Emmys and other events were canceled. That’s impacting a lot of promotional efforts. If there are no additional terrorist-related news developments-from your mouth to God’s ear.
EM: Do you expect the scatter market to be up, down or the same as last year?
Mr. Ostrow: I think it will be about flat.
EM: Just how unsettled is the advertising marketplace? Are the scatter market and the advertising marketplace in general still predictable in any meaningful way?
Mr. Ostrow: No. It’s very, very hard to predict. The only predictability is really that there are spots-and by that I mean both geographic and demographic spots-that are stronger than others. So there are markets and parts of the country that are doing well, and there are markets that are doing very poorly. There are television networks that are doing well and some that are doing poorly. So it’s very spotty. The lifestyle-oriented programs will thrive. It’s a no-brainer to say that the news networks are going to continue to do well. But also some of the informational networks are going to do well, like E!, and some of the multicultural networks are going to continue to do well-the Hispanic, the African American networks. Geographically, we see that the middle-size markets are doing pretty well.
EM: What type of advertising campaigns will succeed in the present climate and in the near-term future?
Mr. Ostrow: Serious ones that avoid the cheap thrills of some of the previous campaigns. It’s going to be informational ones that talk about values, the ones that address the issues of the day, if it’s appropriate to what they’re selling. Humor is going to be very, very delicate. It’s got to be handled with a lot of concern about taste.