UPN's Bad Girl Ad Babe
Jenny McCarthy was the wise-ass MTV/Playboy chic of the nineties. Sadly, she hasn't been able to come up and an act two and her latest outing, the UPN advertising focused sitcom "The Bad Girl's Guide," according to the New York Times' Virginia Heffernan doesn't make the cut. Heffernan wrote, "There's no pleasure in reporting that it's another misfire, though typically good-natured. Tonight's episode is madcap but ultimately strident and not entertaining. As JJ, a boy-crazy advertising executive, Ms. McCarthy smiles wide, cavorts and cracks up with two friends, Holly (Marcelle Larice) and Sarah (Christina Moore), as she pushes deadlines, fantasizes about guys and gets high while working for a huffy boss...But the kooky dialogue, delivered in shrieks, falls flat. And JJ and her friends are far too pleased with themselves; they amplify the grating laugh track with so much deranged gaiety of their own that they seem to be crying for help."
Of course, we'll all like it because we can make fun at writers who can never seem to get advertising right in television shoes or in movies. Perhaps there's a drinking game in the making here. Take a swig everytime an account exec is portrayed as the one who actually makes the ad - one of the most common misnomers put forth in advertising themed shows.
In what we believe to be a losing battle against consumers who now, with PVR technology, have near complete control over whether they view ads or not, Chicago's OMD has announced it will soon test what it dubs "fast-forward commercials." Announced during a keynote yesterday at the Cablevision Advertising Bureau sales conference in Chicago, OMD Director of Strategic Marketing David DeSocio suggested DVRs should not be seen as threat but as a means to provide viewers with better advertising. DeSocio told the audience that while control given to consumers by DVRs, his agency's new technology would help advertisers "involve the consumer even when they are in avoidance mode." Correct me if I'm wrong but that's just about the nicest way I've ever heard anyone say, "force the consumer to view ads when they choose not to."
New York Times television critic Virginia Heffernan is on the scene this week live-blogging the upfronts. Tune in for her witty takes on Jeff Zucker. Imagine her rolling her eyes as Zucker's presentation pokes fun at last years flops, Hawaii, LAX and Father of the Pride. Read how she likens it to a parent slapping a kid. And wallow in the appearances of Tina Fey and Ming-Na, both pregnant, both promoting a new show called Inconceivable, in which a woman gets implanted with the wrong eggs. Wait. Pregnancy take nine months, right? How's that show going to get dragged out for five years?
Using far more words than necessary but still making a good point, Chicago-based media planner Cece Forrester suggest the ad industry embrace PVR ad skipping rather than fighting against it. Citing the shift towards absolute control of content from media companies to consumers and that as skipping has been around forever (i.e. trips to the fridge or bathroom), Forrester writes TiVo should enable viewers to skip, not fast forward through, to the end of any commercial and the beginning of the next.
TiVo's competitor, Replay, had a feature, that has since been disabled, which would skip thirty seconds at a time. Forrester's suggestion builds on this claiming ads, like content, should earn the attention of viewers rather than being served using the current force feed method. Attempting to prevent people from bypassing things they don't like is a losing battle. TiVo would be wise to act early and come to terms with this.
Because of a Presidential press conference last Thursday night, CBS's Survivor was pushed back one hour placing it squarely against the other Mark Burnett reality show, NBC's The Apprentice. In a serious ass kicking, Survivor pulled 21.2 million viewers to The Apprentice's 12.4 million. Boo Hoo, Donald.
Nielsen is having a bit of a tiff lately with ad agencies over its provision of television ratings. While the majority of ad agency execs want commercials rated, not the shows they air within, Nielsen claims they have already offered those ratings to agencies. Agencies have countered saying those ratings, 60-second unit measurements, do not adequately serve what's really needed, the measurement of actual commercial ratings. The way the 60-second unit ratings are taken do not align exactly with when commercials actually air. That is the sticky point agencies have with this offer from Nielsen.
This new method of commercial measurement, if it sees the light of day, could foster some radically different methods of television commercialization. If it's commercials that are measured and not the containing programs, all of the promotion that goes into hyping a television show to viewers in order to achieve high ratings could now go towards hyping commercials to viewers instead. Imagine NBC, faced with radically lower ratings because of ad-skippage, bathroom breaks, etc. The network would have to insure a high level of commercial viewership to maintain its ad rates. Conceivably, NBC would have to do whatever it could to make viewers watch commercials.
In theory, NBC would have to offer incentives to viewers to watch commercials. These incentives could be monetary in nature or come in other forms. Aside from possible Nielsen ratings that would "count" commercial viewership, embedded within the commercials (or before or after a commercial break) would be some sort of code or proof mechanism for the viewer to redeem. This would be necessary, not to prove viewership (although it could serve as a form of comparison to Nielsen ratings) because Nielsen would provide that proof with its new commercial ratings. It would be needed simply to get viewers to watch so high commercial ratings would be achieved for the network, then reported back by Nielsen, then used by networks as a basis from which to set rates for advertisers.
This could dramatically alter the definition of a commercial. While consumers might be swayed financially into watching a commercial, after a time, if commercials remain as boring as they currently are, no amount of money will get consumers to watch when they can so easily skip commercials. Commercials will have to take on elements of what I think is one of the better forms of promotion, the movie/TV trailer. Trailers, whether for good programming or bad, always seem to create the sense that you absolutely positively have to watch the movie/show being promoted. Does any current commercial today come close to that? Yes, promoting content is very different than promoting and ad but we're talking theory here.
That's just one idea. There could be many additional means to make commercials a "must watch" activity. A series of commercials could take on the form of a soap opera or serial drama where viewers would have to watch from day to day/week to week to either follow the story line or to receive other "incentives" for financial redemption. In this sense, commercials become a form of the programming.
In essence, this new economic model would compel networks to pay (or compel in some other very powerful way) viewers to watch commercials so that they can continue to sustain their current ad supported business model. Extrapolating this further, the current model is flipped on its head. Advertisers become producers and the programming becomes the commercial.