For anyone watching the Olympics lately (despite the efforts of NBC -- really, NBC? Why air one of the most anticipated events of the games on MSNBC?! ), you may have seen this engaging Old Spice commercial where a man is magically transported from his bathroom, to a boat, and finally to a horse. The commercial was actually interesting enough for me to stop my TiVo and replay it twice when I first saw it.
The commercial itself has garnered over 2.5 million views on YouTube -- and that's just for the "official" version, there are many other accounts that have uploaded the commercial, which Old Spice has wisely not asked to be taken down (yet?). This serves as a fantastic reminder of a point that we've illustrated here before: advertising is content, and content is advertising. When you make a fantastic commercial like Old Spice did, not only do people actually seek out your commercial to see it, but they discuss it as well. I know personally that I have had no less than 10 discussions amongst my friends about the commercial. In fact, Leo Laporte's video, where he interviews the creators of the commercial about how it was done, has gotten over 100k views.
The big question is, however, how effective this ad was for actually increasing the sales of Old Spice.
Earlier this year, I randomly ended up in a fascinating conversation with a marketing guy from Pepsi, who was telling me about some of the online marketing efforts the company ran during the 2009 Super Bowl, saying that they got the same "response" as the multi-million dollar Super Bowl commercials got, but only cost in the tens of thousands of dollars, rather than millions. Based on that I have to admit I'm not all that surprised to find out (via The Infamous Joe) that Pepsi has decided not to buy any Super Bowl ads for the 2010 game, but will be investing a ton in some online promotions. This is after 23 straight years of Super Bowl ads by Pepsi, costing the company hundreds of millions of dollars. I'm sure that the Super Bowl will be just fine (it claims it's sold out 90% of its ads already, though the prices did drop a bit this year, apparently), but it does suggest that some may be realizing that there are better ways to get your message out than spending a ridiculous sum for a single commercial spot.
We still don't understand why AT&T called so much more attention to Verizon's ads that highlight AT&T's weak 3G network coverage by suing over the ads. Things were made worse when a judge refused to block the ads from airing. Perhaps finally realizing that all this was doing was creating free advertising for Verizon -- and more attention on the quality of AT&T's network -- the company has decided to drop the lawsuit. Apparently, instead, it's going to focus on its own misleading ad campaign.
The commercials are really entertaining in their own way, and have garnered hundreds of thousands of views -- again, demonstrating how good advertising is content. The guys making the videos also put up a short "behind the scenes" version of each video as well, to explain the backstory a bit more. The backstory on Cullman Liquidation is pretty entertaining as well.
But why are these guys doing this? Well, the whole thing is actually part of a promotion from another company, MicroBilt, that's trying to promote its own line of small business services. So it's paying for the whole thing -- showing how content is advertising. None of the videos are actually about MicroBilt, but in sponsoring the entire site and the whole process, it's helping to get its name out there in a fun (non-intrusive, non-annoying, non-sneaky) manner. It's not about product placement or trying to "sneak" a brand into something. Everything's totally upfront. But it's a fun project, with highly entertaining content that shows both how advertising is content and how content is advertising.
It's becoming almost comical how often this happens: a new technology comes along for consuming/watching/listening/distributing some sort of entertainment content, and the industry freaks out. The technology is going to destroy the industry, and laws must be put in place, royalties must be paid, technology must be crippled, etc. And yet... the impending doomsday scenario never shows up. The player piano did not kill the sheet music market. The gramophone did not kill live concerts. The VCR did not kill the movie industry. And, here we are, with TV folks finallyrealizing that the DVR is not killing TV, but actually helping it. Basically, lots of people still watch ads, even if they're watching a time-delayed program. What's funny is that throughout the article you have execs insisting that this was a shock to everyone and no one could have predicted it. Except, of course, we wrote about the same basic thing three and a half years ago. But no one listens to us.
The article doesn't even mention the biggest benefit to DVRs -- even beyond the fact that people watching them still watch commercials: that it allows people to become more connected to certain shows, since they're less likely to ever miss an episode. That makes them more likely to watch those shows regularly (with or without the commercials). If someone can't keep up otherwise, they'll just let the show go entirely.
The other amusing finding in the article is that NBC's attempt to "DVR-proof" itself by moving Jay Leno to 10pm (on the theory that more people would watch it live when they couldn't fast forward through the ads) has totally backfired. That's because it also means that if people miss the show, they don't go back and watch it days later (who wants to watch stale jokes?) -- so fewer ads get watched in the long run (compared to a show that would be recorded and watched later). Oops. In the meantime, can we go back to those TV execs who were threatening to sue TiVo just a few years ago, and ask for an apology for wasting everyone's time?
Back in 1997, the band Aqua released a song called "Barbie Girl," that was actually somewhat critical of "Barbie doll" culture. Mattel, famous for its rather aggressive intellectual property stance, wasted little time in suing the band, claiming the song infringed on the company's rights. In 2002, everyone's favorite appeals court judge (seriously, the guy never fails to entertain) Alex Kozinski told Mattel too bad, parody songs are a part of what you get for being a cultural icon -- and included the classic line: "The parties are advised to chill."
It took seven years since that decision, but apparently Mattel had decided to heed Judge Kozinski's suggestion. Reader Sallo alerts us to the news that Mattel has actually licensed the song for a commercial -- though, they "adjusted" some of the lyrics to make it a little more pro-Barbie, rather than mocking-Barbie. Still, that's quite a jump: from suing the band for infringement to actually licensing and using the song in just a few years.
I have to admit that this story seems so bizarre that I'm not quite sure I believe it. A bunch of folks have been submitting the news that the Nigerian government is apparently so upset by a Sony Playstation commercial that it's demanding an apology from Sony for allegedly "portraying Nigeria as a home of fraud where its citizens hardly do genuine business." Must be quite a commercial right? The only problem is that the commercial does no such thing:
It just mentions, in passing, as a part of the joke of the commercial that "You can't believe everything you read on the Internet. Otherwise I'd be a Nigerian millionaire by now." I don't quite see how that implies that Nigerian citizens hardly do genuine business. It just suggests that there are Nigerian scammers out there -- which is hardly something the government can credibly deny. Hell, there are popular songs in Nigeria all about fleecing dumb Americans in online scams. Honestly, the whole complaint from the Nigerian gov't seems so odd, that it feels like part of Sony's marketing campaign...
Last year, during the presidential campaign, singer Jackson Browne sued John McCain for using one of his songs in an ad. There were a few questionable aspects to the lawsuit. First, the ad wasn't actually from the McCain campaign. There were also some questions about whether or not this was fair use since it was ostensibly used for "political speech," but so far the court didn't seem too amenable to that. And so, McCain has settled the lawsuit and publicly apologized to Browne, who claims this wasn't a partisan issue (yeah, right), but about the rights of musicians. This actually would have been an interesting fair use battle, so it's a little disappointing that it's ended, but the argument over "musicians' rights" strikes me as a bit silly, too. McCain could have easily used the same song live at a campaign stop, assuming the venue paid a compulsory performance license. And someone in the McCain camp could have legally covered the song, paying the correct compulsory license as well -- and then potentially used that version in a commercial. Basically, all this really did was highlight how convoluted and often arbitrary copyright laws are in many cases. But, rather than learning a useful lesson on the mess that is today's copyright law, it looks like McCain has taken the easy way out.
We're seeing more and more consumer brands getting involved in the music business. In parts of Asia this sort of thing has become a lot more common, but we're seeing it more and more in the west as well, such as when Tag body spray started its own record label, or when Groove Armada signed with Bacardi, rather than a record label. Now, Raimund Ostrowski points us to this story about Kraft Canada, which, in an attempt to revive the Triscuits brand, had a musician in Toronto write a 30-second song for a commercial. The commission was then expanded into a full 3 minute song which is getting airplay on the radio and can even be bought at iTunes. While (understandably!) some may not like this sort of commercialization of music, it does show yet again the many other business models that can show up to help pay for the creation of music.