A Christopher Guest TV series? Don’t tease me…

Christopher Guest is getting the band back together for an HBO series. No more waiting for *years* between movies like Waiting for Guffman (personal fave), Best In Show, and, the mother of them all, This Is Spinal Tap. Proof there is a TV god.

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Sorry, JT – not the warmest welcome for the new MySpace

A little harsh, but pretty much deserved.  You can read it here.


Ambush Marketing…Nike Style

Today, officially, and dare I say, thankfully, we say good-bye to the London 2012 Games, though not without a shout out to team USA’s men’s gold medal winning bball team.  (Hey, Melo, any chance you can bring some of that juice home to NYC?)

Companies pay huge sums to be Olympic sponsors, and, theoretically at least,  for good reason – for two weeks every two years the entire planet is focused on something positive.  Not many marketing opportunities can give you that kind of stage.  One of the London Games’ official sponsors, for example, was adidas.  By some estimates, adidas paid, based on today’s exchange rate, about $160 million over the last four years for exclusive marketing rights in the UK only, which included the cost of the sponsorship, the ad campaigns and outfitting the athletes.  The New York Times reports that the sponsorship piece alone cost (again, based on today’s exchange rate) about $60 million.  To quote Macaulay Culkin from one of my top 10 Will & Grace episodes, “That’s a lotta chedda, yo!”

Then there’s Nike.  They ran a wonderful, engaging TV ad called “Find Your Greatness – Jogger” that is not only a viral sensation, but has really captured peoples’ imaginations (you can watch it here).  Then they stuck it to adidas in their own backyard with this print ad featuring the great British women’s marathoner and current world champion Paula Radcliffe.  Then this morning during the men’s bball finals, they ran a “Game On” spot that was as kick-ass and adrenaline-fueled as “Find Your Greatness” was endearing (you can see it here).  Cost of the sponsorship?  Zero.  They paid for media buys and production costs, but they paid no sponsorship fee because they weren’t a sponsor.  Net result?  Ad Age reported that of 1,034 US consumers surveyed, 37% identified Nike as an Olympic sponsor.

Call it chutzpah (look it up), call it good ol’ American ingenuity.  But THAT is how it’s done.


Those who can – do. Those who can’t – are jealous.

(With a nod and an apology to H.L. Mencken.)

I, like many people I know (none of them journalists), *love* HBO’s The Newsroom.  It seems many people I don’t know like the show as well, judging by the growth in viewership since its debut and the show’s pick up for a second season.  According to HBO’s parent company, Time Warner, the show averages 7 million viewers per episode as compared to its bona fide hit Game of Thrones, which averaged 11 million.  Yeah, that’s a real big difference…(not).

So now one Mr. Tim Goodman, TV critic extraordinaire for The Hollywood Reporter, has decided to offer advice on how Aaron Sorkin – the show’s highly respected creator and winner of Oscars and Emmys for work that includes A Few Good Men, The American President, The West Wing, Sports Night, The Social Network and Moneyball – should deal with ten difficult questions he may be subjected to by the nation’s TV critics today as part of the Television Critics Association summer press tour.  Not a big surprise that the critics don’t like this show – they all work for news organizations of a sort, and while The Newsroom may represent some utopian idea of how a news operation should work, it still makes them all look bad.

Here are Mr. Goodman’s sage words for Mr. Sorkin.  My advice to Mr. Goodman is to get a real job that doesn’t involve pissing on the undeniable talent of others for the hell of it.

 


Olympic Athletes, Rock Stars, and the Challenges of Sponsorship

I know – been a long time.  Happy to be back.  Promise to be more prolific.  On to the news…

Interesting quandary, this IOC Rule 40.  It’s part of the IOC’s Social Media, Blogging and Internet Guidelines, which you can download here.  Rule 40 is designed to protect the interests of the official Olympic event sponsors by precluding any athlete from allowing their name, picture or performance to be used for advertising purposes except as permitted by the IOC.  Were it not , however, for the athletes’ personal sponsors and the support those companies have provided over the years, many athletes – like those from the US and other nations that receive no federal support – would not be able to compete in the games.  Last time I checked, no athletes, no games.  Ad Age has a good piece on the topic.

Compare this to musical artists with tour sponsors.  Or more accurately, rock stars, since they are the only artists that can typically attract corporate sponsorship.  The venues they play, which are generally large because that’s how rock stars roll, also have sponsors since that’s the only way they can make money – the rock stars often take +/-100% of the gate, leaving the venue with over-priced beer, parking, and sponsorship as their only sources of revenue.  Since both sides typically guarantee sponsors category exclusivity, sometimes they conflict.  Only in this case, it’s the artist that usually wins.  No rock star, no show.

So what’s the upshot here?  As our collective media consumption continues to fragment, as engaging audiences becomes more and more difficult across multiple, often simultaneous screens, as social media and our nearly obsessive propensity to share transmits massive amounts of news and info around the world in the time it takes to press “send,” aligning with a sporting event or a rock star that captures the world’s imagination may seem like a good bet – a way to simplify a complex challenge.  It can be.  But nothing is that simple.  Just make sure you’re laying the right bets.


Hello Goodbuy: JC Penney Just Got Very Interesting

Addendum – August 1, 2012:  The original post was written in October, 2011, and given the passage of time and JCP’s financial performance since then, it is clearly dated.  I still think the Johnson/Francis team could have done great things – problem is they rolled out the re-branding in a big, splashy way before they could bring the product and stores up to the standards of the so-called new and improved JCP experience.  So yes, I have a bit of egg on my face.  But it just goes to show you – the best plans in the world ain’t worth the paper they’re written on if you don’t execute.

Original Post:  If you follow such things, no doubt you’ve heard that Ron Johnson of Apple Retail Stores and Genius Bar fame and, IMO, one of the few true merchants out there (as I’ve discussed before, Mickey Drexler of JCrew is pretty much the only other one) is set to become the new CEO of JC Penney come November 1st.  What you may not know is that Johnson spent his formative merchant years at Target – 15 years, to be exact, before the 11 he spent at Apple.  Word is that he was a bit of a maverick at Target, which is not really in keeping with their corporate culture but probably served him well at Apple.  Today, Target announced that its CMO, Michael Francis, is leaving the company after a decade to join…(wait for it)…JC Penney as its new president.  Francis is the creative brains behind Target’s brand positioning and its best known ad campaigns, including the recent Missoni launch.  Interestingly, high profile design deals like Missoni, as well as Liberty of London, Michael Graves and others (full disclosure:  I was CEO of Swell, one of Target’s “design partners”) don’t live on the merchant side of Target’s business; rather, they reside within marketing, which was in Francis’ purview.

Have you ever been to a JC Penney?  I have – once.  It was for research.  I very nearly died of boredom.  Can you recall a single JC Penney ad or product deal or anything interesting they have ever done?  Anything they do particularly well?  Anything that distinguishes them from any other retail chain?  Me neither.  I think that’s about to change.


Everybody Else: What Not To Do Part II

Let’s take a quick stock of the wackiness that has been swirling around the last few weeks.  In no particular order:

  • Netflix bums everyone out by raising their prices in July, and then pisses everyone off in September by making one, easy to use service two, far less convenient offerings, one of which has a really dippy name.  (You can read my post about this here.)
  • AOL makes a not-particularly-well-thought-out investment move involving the head of an acquired company who was promised autonomy, only to have it blown up in its face by the head of another acquired company.
  • HP bets its future on a new tablet and OS, decides it was only kidding and scraps the whole thing, including its CEO, only to hire a new, “name brand” CEO that knows nothing about any of its businesses.
  • In a similar vein, Yahoo!, which is running neck and neck with HP for the dubious honor of having the most incompetent board of any public company, cans its CEO without any succession plan.  In an effort to keep their employees from racing to the door, the board sends a rambling, semi-coherent email letting everyone know that all options are being explored, which may or may not include a sale or hiring a new CEO depending upon which way the wind is blowing, only to be followed by a more direct and pointed email from the acting CEO telling employees it’s business as usual for now and have a nice weekend.
  • For those of you who still haven’t become fully used to Facebook’s last round of changes, a whole new round has been introduced (with even more coming next month) because fb decided they know better than we do whether, how much, and what we want to share with one another.  Massive amounts of bitching ensues.
  • RIM reaches a point where they should just gather up their toys and go home.

All of this begs enormous numbers of questions and observations.  There is, however, one commonality, which also happens to be the only factor of real consequence.  Every one of these companies has taken its eye off the customer.  They are all (rightfully) obsessed with iteration, innovation, fear of obsolescence, and the need to stay ahead of the competition – these are critical drivers of every tech company.   But when everyone inside a company is breathing the same air (drinking the Kool-Aid, buying the same bullshit –  insert your own metaphor here) things start to get really funky.  Do you think fb did a lot of research before coming up with Timelines?  It represents a fundamental change to what constitutes a fb profile – it’s no longer a snapshot, but rather a mini-biography, some chapters, I’m sure, many people would prefer to forget or at least right the wrongs of the past and not share again.  RIM clearly thought email was enough.  It’s not like that stopped being true yesterday.  The list goes on.

The lesson here, boys and girls, is really simple.  Never take your eye off your customer, whether she is internal to your organization, a consumer, or a business client.  She’s the ONLY thing that matters.