Friday, March 26, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010


One output of the global economic crisis has been the willingness of desperate media owners to approve previously unthinkable media buys. Case in point: A few weeks back the Los Angeles Times allowed the movie Alice in Wonderland to take over the entire front page of the newspaper. Not a cover wrap—the actual news content of the paper for that day was obscured by Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. This buy makes it pretty clear that if you’ve got the cash, anything goes.

Last year another movie, Star Trek, persuaded ABC to let the Starship Enterprise make a flyby through the opening credits of the TV show Lost. From a traditional buying perspective, sneaking into the opening credits of a show is unheard of. (J.J. Abrams has clout for sure).

So, is this new openness by media owners a good thing? Unfortunately, more often than not it is probably bad for our business. 
At a macro level the encroachment of advertising everywhere has a detrimental effect on people’s liking and trust of advertising. The more surfaces we slap ads on, the more consumers seek to filter out all marketing.

Perhaps more corrosive, though, is the long-term impact on media brands themselves. Harper’s Bazaar magazine recently ran a lavish 40-page story featuring the same four celebrities who were also fronting a major new Estée Lauder campaign. The “story” was indistinguishable from regular Lauder advertising. (Lauder ran ads featuring the same models in the issue as well.)  What does it say about the Harper’s brand and its credibility when its content is so clearly for sale? As the walls between ads and content get ever more porous, the negative sentiment for advertising is dragging down the quality content that attracted advertisers in the first place.

Unfortunately, the push for ever more places to insert ads is not going to let up anytime soon. The media-buying side of the house tends to equate buying a new space with being creative and innovative. The moment a new technology appears, media teams seek to exploit it as an ad medium. (We’ve already had ads on the Kindle, and we would bet a lot of money that a bunch of agencies are now working on how they can insert advertising into the iPad).

Within the Communication Strategy group at GSP, we don’t believe that finding new ways to irritatingly interrupt people’s days is good innovation. Poor disruption only increases negative consumer reaction. If The Los Angeles Times keeps selling its front page as they did last week, the newspaper will lose subscribers.

The critical question we need to ask when considering out-of-the-box placements is not can we buy something, but should we? 

We always want to enable positive brand interactions, something that engages and preferably enhances the consumer experience. We also know that consumers are not stupid. If the strategic link, the reason why the brand in question does what it does, is crystal clear and enhances the experience, consumers will welcome it. As ever, we all have to remember that the only opinions that really matter are consumers’.

An example of a good disruption/innovation? From the GSP portfolio, for the launch of Wario Land: Shake It! (a Wii game), we achieved a world-first by having the action within our YouTube video spill over into the rest of the YouTube page. Never been done before, surprising and categorically tied to the concept of the game. Consumers loved it. ( )

So, for Alice in Wonderland, what might have been a smarter solution? What if all the front-page stories had, instead of being obscured by Johnny Depp, actually been rewritten by his character of the Mad Hatter? Might that have been entertaining and witty, offering something of value to the reader that they might even share with others?

As we generate incredible media ideas, as much as we always want to say “yes we can” to pull them off, we also need to check that consumers will respond with a “glad you did.”

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