Cable systems get marketing muscle

May 6, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The biggest challenge facing the cable industry’s biggest system operators is finding ways to get additional income from existing subscribers-and that means selling them digital upgrades and new services such as video-on-demand, cable modems and cable telephony-while the biggest challenge facing cable programmers is convincing advertisers that cable’s mature networks are good bets for their ad dollars.
That’s the view of Ed Tettemer, CEO of the Philadelphia-based Red Tettemer advertising agency, which specializes in cable and counts among its clients multiple system operators Cablevision, Comcast Corp. and Insight, the Fox Cable’s affiliate sales group, the Rainbow Media networks, the Univision networks, including newly launched Telefutura, and the Weather Channel.
Red Tettemer has been in business since the mid-1990s and was formed by Steve Red and Mr. Tettemer, a veteran ad executive who had previously worked on campaigns for CNN and the Cartoon Network.
Mr. Tettemer will be at this year’s national cable show, where he will participate in a panel on DOCSIS 1.1, the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification standard for high-speed cable modems.
The first thing Mr. Tettemer will suggest is to market the product without reference to that unwieldy name. “It’s like marketing for a minivan,” he said of the marketing challenge for cable modems, which go by such monikers as Road Runner, Optimum Online and Power Link, the brands offered by Time Warner, Cablevision Systems and Adelphia Communications, respectively. Before the minivan existed, “No housewife asked for it,” he said.
Until recently, the cable industry has made the crucial mistake of selling cable modems on the basis of their speed. In the past, “you only talked about technology; you didn’t talk about the consumer benefit,” he said. Now “benefit-oriented marketing is becoming the norm. … We talk about selling the beach and not the plane. … We talk about the destinations and experiences you have online that you can only have with high-speed [cable modem connections].”
The business models for the MSOs and the networks both are changing, Mr. Tettemer said. At the networks, the model “has changed from seeking revenue from operators to seeking revenue from the next wave of advertisers,” he said.
For Power Link, Red Tettemer has created a “content co-op” promotional campaign for fall. That campaign will tout the cable modem as the best way to reach the Web sites of cable networks with “enhanced” content; for example, the campaign will promote the Independent Film Channel’s Web site as a destination where the cable-modem-equipped surfer can view outtakes of movies and original short films.
So far, cable operators have not “marketed their online products [the way] they marketed their cable subscriptions for [the past] 30 years, which was all about programming, all about content,” he said.
One big assignment for Red Tettemer will be introducing the new AT&T/Comcast combine in cable markets around the country. Many markets have been served by three or four cable companies in the past few years, among them TCI, Media One and AT&T Broadband, as systems have changed hands and the industry has consolidated. “They’ve all made their promises,” Mr. Tettemer said. “Sometimes they’ve delivered, often they haven’t. So you’re going to see a cynical franchise authority, cynical customers. … Local influentials are looking at Comcast with a bit of a cynical eye [too].”
The marketing campaign will count on the reputation for quality that Comcast’s Roberts family itself enjoys, Mr. Tettemer said, and will “focus on grass-roots community involvement, hands-on involvement in local events.”
For Cablevision, Red Tettemer will focus on the “real interactivity” possibilities of its cable modem, including the MSG Game Director feature, which allows the viewer to “control the feeds from the cameras at Madison Square Garden sporting events. It’s a cool toy.”
For Adelphia, the advertising will focus on how people with high-speed broadband connections can “make their little home movies and send them to their grandmother in California or share music with their friends.” The tagline the company has created to symbolize those possibilities is “Life Wide Open.”