Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wither Advertising?

My mind's been exercising itself lately on a large and somewhat vexatious question: will advertising as we know it wither...or will it launch itself into new places, new directions.

Hence the rather laboured pun of my headline. Clever, though, even if I do say so myself.

Anyway, I was perusing Slate this morning, and came across this article: . It points to the fragmentation of the TV audiences in the USA: that only the Networks (and HBO, which is a subscription channel) can afford to make the so-called "quality" shows - the dramas and comedies that demand a bunch of bucks for each episode. These programmes, I assume, includes such wonders of the televisual arts as "Desperate Housewives" and "Ghost Whisperer". Sigh. But, even so, great shows are still only attracting between 3 and 4% of the potential audience. The Networks survive on these tiny numbers by increasing the cost of advertising to them. Where else in the world can a commodity that's been devalued attract a premium price?

Well, I'm ignoring the bottled water rort here, obviously.

The article claims that with TV delivering such small numbers, advertisers will no longer be able to afford to a) make the quality TV commercials that would justify the the media spend, and b) be able to afford to spend such a big chunk of bucks to advertise to ever diminishing audiences.

This will mean the decent shows will no longer be made by the Networks, and television will implode under the excesses of cheaply made "reality" shows.

We've seen something similar happen with the radio market here in New Zealand, with the deregulation of the ownership laws. Suddenly towns as small as Taupo (population 20,000 on a good day) are attracting 12 commercial stations. Once you take out the Government broadcaster, Radio New Zealand, each commercial station delivers, on average, less than 1200 listeners. Of course, the audiences aren't equal: some stations probably attract less than 200 listeners.

In order to pay for these decreasing audiences, the Networks have to decrease services. Both of the big Networks - The Radio Network and Radioworks - are cutting out local content. There will soon be no local radio shows in towns smaller than 60,000. The largest market, Auckland, will be broadcasting all shows to the entire country, with the exception of local breakfast shows in the larger cities: 60,000+.

The only local content will be local advertising, and the advertisers are treated with contempt. There commercials are being made by underpaid, harried, pressured people whose responsibility lies only with their employers: they care not one jot for the client. They can't. They're not even allowed to talk to them. That's customer service, guys. The only people who are to speak with the clients are the Account Managers - and, as one of the big Network's General Managers said, Account Managers are coin-operated. As they're almost entirely commission-paid, they're working for the dollar - not for the advertiser.

So, advertisers, if they're wise, will look elsewhere. Local newspapers? An equal contempt is shown to the clients. The giveaway newspapers survive on the 10 x 2 adverts, and they jumble them in, willy-nilly. 70% advertising, 30% editorial content. And the ads are written, largely, by semi-literate layout people. I'm sure they do their best, but when they don't know the difference between a noun and a verb, they're lacking in basic communication skills.

A proliferation of stations has led, inexorably, to a lowering of standards. Quality broadcasting is becoming a thing of the past. Quality community newspapers are a thing of the past. Readership of the "proper" newspapers is diminishing.

If the media can't deliver the audience, and treat that audience with respect, the advertisers will flee.

Where will they go? It seems obvious to me. Magazines know their audiences and readers well, and treat them with the respect they deserve. (Yes, readers of the women's and gossip magazines: you deserve to be traeted like fluff-brained morons. And you love it.) The Internet will take over from both radio and television, and slice a big chunk from newspapers and magazines. Billboards will always remain effective, if they're well done.

But the 30" TV and radio commercial is going to be dead. They're in the hospice now, and their close relatives are starting to look at the morphine bottle. It'll be a mercy killing.

LISTENING TO: The White Stripes, "Icky Thump". Gotta love Jack White. In a manly way, of course.

READING: "Tuesdays with Morrie". It's a kind of fascination of the horrible, at the moment. I read a chapter, vomit, then read another. I'm also reading a Lincoln Child thriller, less said the better, and a rather good WWII-based murder yarn, by John Gardner, "troubled midnight".

WORD OF THE DAY: Segregation. I've seen "District 9" and am greatly affected. more about that tomorrow.


At the age of ten H.T.T. was taken back to Northridge by his noisy father. They inherited a house which stood in grand solitude on the outskirts of Northridge, and Henry the Third became a firm friend of the local Maori folk. Henry the Second, however, carried on to marry three women - all consecutively. of course, nothing improper or Mormon about this lad - and enjoyed a rogeringly roisterous life. He ran an illicit still, and produced a very good whisky, and a fair to middling feijoa brandy. We know he passed on while passing on, so let’s turn our attention to the third in the series. We mentioned before that he was, because of the darkness of his skin, a failure. This needs qualifying. Henry the third became a doctor. It took a little work, as these things do, but the Henry gene’s a fairly bright one, and he barrelled through, much to the chagrin of a number of his tutors, professors, and class-mates. Frankly, it must be said that had he been as white as an English navvy’s armpit, he would have qualified earlier than he did, but as New Zealand has prided itself on its exemplary race relations, this must never be said aloud. Henry the Third was a good man, and might even have been a great man. He dispensed pills and advice and balms and unguents to the only people who would come to him: the local tribe of Maori. It was a rare week that he had more than five pounds in his Post Office account. However, he and his family always ate well, being provided with pork, puha, kumara, and the other necessities of a well-balanced diet by his grateful, and poor, patients.
It must be made clear here that not all Maori in Northridge were destitute: far from it. Many Maori were excellent businessmen, and flourished under the Pakeha rule. The town would not have survived the depression without the Maori’s sense of communal responsibility and caring. Henry, and his lovely wife Agnes, daughter of the Mayor, Jason Fairbrother, were, in their own eyes, successful. However, the town had one other doctor, who drove a Packard. Henry III rode a horse, and cared not one whit. Henry the Third died of meningitis, one the eve of the Victory over Japan. The tangi was the greatest thing to happen in Northridge that year.
Henry the Fourth was our Henry’s Dad. A good man. This Henry was hardly distinguished, but he was a good, solid individual. There’s little noteworthy about him, except for one thing: he loved without question. He was the man who taught his son that giving was far, far better than taking. He taught his son that being gentle was a much finer thing that being hard. He was the man who taught his son that the written word was a gift of love from a stranger. He was the man who, when his son said “I’m going to marry Mary Pickering one day,” hugged the boy and said “I wouldn’t be at all surprised.” Henry the Fourth was a man who called his children “my love” and “darling” and “my friend” and he meant it.
Henry the Fourth was the product of his predecessors, and, before he died on the kitchen floor at 22 Talbot Terrace, he passed all his gifts on to his children:
Henry the Fifth.
Four people, who shared their common legacy: love.
It’s not such a bad thing, really.

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