In an apparent state of dis-repair, failing equipment, heightened criticism and exiting advertisers, Chris Whittle's Channel One, the in school network that turns kids in 12,000 schools into advertiser controlled consumer zombies, is suffering badly. Consumer advocate Gary Ruskin holds nothing back in his contempt for the business model.
"Channel Ones repugnant business model of forcing children to watch ads in school is failing." said Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert, a nonprofit organization that opposes the commercialization of education. "This is just the latest instance of the rejection of the commercial culture and its spread into the schools."
"Parents are fed up with corporations interfering with their relationship with their own children, Ruskin said. "Across the country, people are finally coming to realize that pushing advertising at school children is intolerable, outrageous and wrong." A press release from Ruskin's group sites some examples hinting towards a rebellion against kid targeted advertising. The disintegration of the ZapMe! Corp, the defeat of Time-Warners plans to put ads on CNN Student News, and the removal of soda pop or other junk food marketers in California, Texas, Maine, Arkansas, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, Oakland, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle, among other places are reasons the group thinks Channel One is headed for trouble.
Oddly, Channel One was founded in 1990, long before the current advertising landscape become so overwhelming that, short of sitting in a prison's solitary confinement cell, avoiding advertising is now near impossible. Perhaps properly crafted and vetted commercials aimed at kids were, at one time, acceptable. Today, that seems to be an impossibility as marketers fight for a slot in the increasing tidal wave of messaging crashing down on people. That fight has caused the inevitable backlash against all kinds of advertising amplifying the focus on the low hanging fruit of kid-focused advertising. When a six year old daughter says she doesn't want to eat a piece of bacon because it will make her fat, there's concern. Even responsible parents have difficulty contending with the onslaught of messaging that really has no place finding its way to children's ears.
In a horrifically depressing statement, blog monitoring firm Technorati CEO David Sifry points to the growing number of fake blogs launched simply to take advantage of a weblog's ability to trick search engines into ranking web pages higher than they normally would be in search results. Steve Rubel points out it's simple human nature. Once some idiot realizes he can hack something to his benefit, he will do so. Rubel suggests it will mostly be up to search engines themselves to find a way to eradicate this problem.
iMediaConnection contributor Robert Moskowitz offers up the standard reasons why marketers should consider adding a weblog to their marketing plans. Pardon us for yawning as we've heard it all before but with respect to those who still haven't, Moskowitz says blogs put a human face on a company, can be useful in obtaining free research, can tie people closer to a company by involving them with the comment section of the blog, provide a platform to leverage industry opinion leaders and can increase the awareness of a company through weblog's ability to climb high on Google's search results for the company.
A recent ad for the YvesSaintLaurent women's fragrance Cinema which features a woman surrounded by a bunch of tuxedo-clad men ogling her has received the parody treatment. b3ta member "JimVin" has altered the ad a bit to perhaps point out the less than intentional notion brought to mind by this ad. See a larger version here and the original ad here. As an added bit of humor, note the fragrance's name change on the bottle.
Rick Bruner points out a new ad for Adidas. With music composed by Squeak E. Clean featuring Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and directed by Spike Jones, TBWA/Chiat/Day San Francisco has come up with an entrancing new spot for Adidas's new intelligent shoe.
Ad Age Editor Scott Donaton and Ad Age Editor in Chief, this week, write dueling columns on where advertising is headed. Crain claims the expansion of advertising into channels beyond the traditional and the expected is a dangerous path for marketers to take. Following that is Donaton's excited embrace of new marketing platforms such as VOD, Podcasting (that's one word, Scott), video games and IM and acknowledged decline of mass media.
While it might be fun to tear each of these viewpoints apart, it's not warranted because they are both right. Traditional media isn't going away, it's just changing. New media isn't the answer to everything, it's just mirroring people's changing media consumption habits. They are both right because they acknowledge that great creative (the art part and the thinking part) is the glue that holds together successful advertising. Without it, no delivery channel, old or new, matters.
Rick Bruner tipped us to this story about corporate hate sites. Forbes has published an article on the top corporate hate sites - those sites published by, in some cases, raving lunatics, who have a serious axe to grind with a particular company. While it's easy to brush off these sites assuming few will see, with the advent of weblogs, combined with the already ubiquitous power of forums, chat and email, it would behoove any marketer who appears on this list to give serious consideration toward remedying the reasons behind the launch of the site.
Forbes ranked the sites on "ease of use, frequency of updates, number of posts, hostility level (angrier is better), relevance, and entertainment value." Tops on the list are KB Homes for KBhomesucks, PayPal for Paypalsucks, Allstate Insurance for Allstateinsurancesucks, Microsoft for MS-Eradication, American Express for Amexsux, Wal-Mart for Walmart-Blows, Verizon for Verizonpathetic, United Airlines for Untied and UPS for UnitedPackageSmashers.
Of great importance to marketers, Forbes asked the creators of each of these site what each marketer would have to do to get the creator to take down the site. Predictably, the requirements are stiffer than most marketers would be willing to adhere to. As people are empowered with increasingly more wide reaching platforms on which to air their gripes, marketers should actively join these conversations rather than react to them with standard measures such as simply ignoring the complaints or engaging in tired, lame law suits. If a site like Subservient Chicken can become as popular as it did, there's no reason a hate site like McDonaldsMakesYouMassive couldn't become equally popular.
On its Engadget gadget weblog, Weblogs Inc. has launched "focus-ads," which, in a nutshell, add the blogging Comment feature to the bottom of a display ad allowing readers to comment on and discuss the advertiser.
It's a welcome move toward establishing more of a conversational relationship between advertiser and consumer as long as both parties participate. The weblog platform enables this beautifully. The advertiser can glean insight into people's reaction and perception of their offering as well as offer feedback to people's queries.
The big kahunas at Saatchi & Saatchi have decided to go on the legal warpath following the exodus of Vice Chairman Creative Director Mike Burns along with 16 others and their subsequent hire by Interpublic. The group worked on the General Mills account while at Saatchi.
In a statement, Saatchi said, "Saatchi & Saatchi has today commenced a lawsuit against Michael Burns in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York. The lawsuit seeks damages and other relief against Mr. Burns. Upon advice of counsel, we will have no further comment."
It's unclear what sort of damages Saatchi expects to recoup. So far, General Mills is still on the agency's client roster. Granted, the account is a bit understaffed right now but with 17 fewer people to pay, it sure seems like Saatchi is temporarily ahead of the game, at least financially.
Because of the pervasiveness of the Internet, the use of chat rooms, IM, forums, email and weblogs, the level of "consumer conversation" has risen dramatically. The beauty of this, for marketers, is that it's all digitized, right there on servers across the globe, to be examined and analyzed for future product development and marketing. Research firm BuzzMetrics has taken advantage of these vast resources and made a business out of culling data and analyzing it for marketers. It's most recent report takes a look at artificial sweeteners.
If something doesn't change soon, it seems all food is going to come out of a machine and contain nothing but hard to categorize, unpronounceable. man-made ingredients. It's already happening, and has been for some time now, with artificial sweeteners. A recent study by BuzzMetrics indicates people are wising up to all this fakery and marketers may need to take note. According to BuzzMetrics, 45 percent of all artificial-sweetener discussions among over 200,000 monitored trend-setting consumers in online health and nutrition forums were negative in the fourth quarter of 2004. Specifically, 14 percent of discussions recommended using natural sweeteners instead; 13 percent warned of side effects; 11 percent advocated for limited intake; and seven percent complained of unpleasant taste.
Conversely, 42 percent of artificial-sweetener discussions were in favor of them in some way. Specifically, 19 percent discussed regular usage; 17 percent advocated their use in cooking; and six percent recommended them over natural sweeteners.
This is just a tiny snapshot of the "conversations" that are out there for companies to look at when they consider the development of a product or the marketing of an existing product. It's not an easy task but there's never before been a time when so much information has been available about people preferences, opinions and habits.