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CAB Meet Beats Drum for Importance of TV

May 30, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Cable sales executives heard at last week’s Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau conference in Chicago the reasons why getting closer to their customers is so important.

CAB President Sean Cunningham estimated attendance was about 1,400.

Since joining CAB in 2002, Mr. Cunningham said, he’s led 235 presentations to advertisers and ad buyers. The message he’s hearing amid the gloom-and-doom predictions about television as an ad medium is that advertisers “need TV to do more. I need it more than ever. They need to move product, and we’ve got the perfect product to do it.”

Cable’s ability to be local and granular on a grand scale is its advantage over other forms of television, Mr. Cunningham said: “Their needs are your capabilities.”

Indeed, during his keynote address on Monday, David DeSocio, U.S. director of strategic marketing at OMD, said the agency’s goal with consumers and clients was to “get as close as you possibly can-without getting too creepy.” In more practical terms, Mr. DeSocio said, the Holy Grail is to “get the right message to the right person at just the right time.”

As a media agency, OMD still spends on television 66 percent of the $19 billion it stewards for clients. Mr. DeSocio drew applause when he mentioned that the agency’s orientation is to shift spending from broadcast to cable.

In keeping up with consumer trends, he suggested that rather than fight the trend, advertising executives must embrace fragmentation, think beyond the 30-second spot and “test, test, test” new media technologies. “We want to get in early and learn how it works,” he said.

Among the alternatives to the :30 OMD is exploring are commercials that show messages while viewers are fast-forwarding with their DVRs and commercials that offer rewards for watching during video-on-demand presentations. One potential example: a Disney movie made available to the viewer free as part of a branded McDonald’s Family Home Theater package.

Mr. DeSocio said the average viewer changes channels 8,000 times per week, which means media agencies must be ever more careful in figuring out who really is watching which shows.

Some advertisers want to watch family shows, for example, but Mr. DeSocio points out that the genre encompasses a wide range of shows, such as “7th Heaven” on The WB, “The O.C.” on Fox and “The Sopranos” on HBO. “Which one for which brand?” he asked. “That is a task we have to deal with every day.”

OMD foresees that as choices proliferate, a new invention will rise that the agency has dubbed the “media concierge.” This mechanism will sit between the creators and distributors of all forms of media and the consumer of media. It turns the media model from push to pull and blurs the lines between viewing, shopping and playing video games. “It will be more immersive and interactive,” Mr. DeSocio said.

To reach consumers, agencies and advertisers will have to do business differently, shifting more of their resources and attention to the talent and producers of content and the new gateways from the distributors of content.

Viewers, Mr. DeSocio said, “are migrating to their personal media.”

The job of media buyers and sellers will be to take these viewers, who have a wide range of choices, and re-aggregate them into tribe or affinity groups, he said, and create “a group large enough we can spend money against them.”

That’s getting harder to do simply by picking individual shows, he said, noting that only 18 shows draw a 5 rating or higher while 1,723 are available with ratings of 1.0 or less.

In that environment, marketers must use media relationships viewers have to build relevance, use more creative messages and maintain accountability.

Mr. DeSocio gave some examples of OMD clients that had good fits with certain media options. State Farm is a big advertiser on CNN, which has an aura of trust. Visa uses “The Apprentice” for an image of success and achievement. Pepsi uses such shows on The WB as “One Tree Hill” to project youth and looking ahead.

Ad buyer John Muszynski, CEO of Starcom USA, appearing on a panel, stressed that simply being watched isn’t enough in the new media world. “If you are a cable network, learn to stay connected with that customer,” he said. “If you engage [that viewer], we’ll pay for that connection. If it’s just an exposure, you’ll lose them.”

A panel of senior multiple system operator ad sales executives took stock of where cable stands in the marketplace and some of the challenges it faces.

“Our future is certainly in our backyard,” said Anne Ragsdale, VP of advertising for the Bright House Networks Group. She noted that mattresses, for example, had become a fast-growing category, illustrating cable’s advantages in being able to target for local businesses within a market area.

That gives cable the opportunity of “taking money from local broadcasters,” said Larry Fischer, president of Time Warner Cable Media Sales.

Mr. Fischer said that the national upfront market for cable was a predictor of the strength for the local market. He drew cheers from the crowd when he said that in addition to continuing pulling ad dollars from the broadcast networks, he was “rooting for you [the cable networks] to get your rates up as well.”

Billy Farina, senior VP of advertising sales for Cox Media, added that he wants the cable networks to sell as much inventory in the upfront as possible, because “the abundance of inventory hinders our national spot business.”

And if the networks are having trouble getting advertisers to buy their inventory, “Give it back to us and we can sell it,” said Kevin Dowell, senior VP of advertising sales for Insight Media Advertising.

The ad sales chiefs were all in favor of the Local People Meters being rolled out by Nielsen Media Research. “If it’s more accurate, I’m all for it,” said Jim Heneghan, senior VP of marketing and advertising at Charter Media. And while Local People Meters are slowly becoming available in big markets, “It changes the conversations in small markets” because the meters demonstrate that the old diary method has been undercounting cable viewership.

However, the cable companies eventually will want to use data from digital set-top boxes. “That’s a treasure chest of data because it’s so robust,” Mr. Dowell said.