Archive for March, 2009

Canadian Television: A Tough Sell

March 20, 2009 Leave a comment

This week, talk of a “television industry bailout” echoed around the water cooler after news reports suggested that the Canadian Government is planning to help save the broken television business model. And broken it is. But calling it a “bailout” is a very big mistake because unlike the auto industry or the financial sector, Canadian broadcasters have been grappling with a difficult situation made worse by regulations that have prevented them from aligning their strategy with a challenging reality.

Canadian television is tough sell and here’s why: Canadian audiences prefer U.S. programming to Canadian programming, demonstrated by their willingness to pay service providers for U.S. TV channels while Canadian channels like Global and CTV are prevented from collecting anything!

I don’t think you can argue that Canada’s viewing habits have been shaped (for the most part) by Hollywood and U.S. entertainment due mostly in part to our proximity to the U.S. For years the Canadian Government (CRTC) has tried to protect the Canadian broadcasting industry with the things like Canadian content regulations and the concept of simulcasting (where Canadian broadcasters cover the incoming U.S. TV signals and collect ad revenues that come with it – also why you can’t see American TV commercials during the Super Bowl). This has worked for a while, that is – until digital technology unleashed the audience’s ability to control the system and get what they want out of it (PVRs, video on demand, broadband video, etc).

The CRTC did what it had to up to this point but times have changed and the television business needs support, not prevention or protectionism. It’s less about a “bailout” and more about ensuring the proper functioning of a free market. Firms need to be paid for products they produce so that they can compete at a reasonable level. This is sounding more and more like a case for the Competition Bureau!

Bon weekend

Categories: Uncategorized

G&M TODAY: We still watch TV. So why are stations going out of business?

March 11, 2009 2 comments

This was the title of an article appearing in today’s Globe & Mail, written by TV critic John Doyle (

I agree that TV viewership is not as much of a problem as is advertising. TV shows reach larger audiences than any other medium, hands down and that is not going to change for a long time. Advertisers have lowered their ad spending due to economic pressure; however this will be a temporary problem with little impact on the long term profitability of private broadcasters. I also agree with Doyle in that the owners of media companies like CTVGM and Canwest have corporate balance sheet problems that need solving, but that this is independent of business units’ P/L performance. But in this crappy economy, sacrifices are needed and whether we like it or not – local TV is invetably going to be the sacrificial lamb. And that signals a much deeper problem that Canadians seem to be reluctant to digest.

The CRTC’s regulation of the Canadian broadcasting is hurting more than it is helping at this point. Technology is the culprit and there’s no turning back. Private broadcasters no longer have incentives to produce local content and so, small and unprofitable stations are going black. I started my career in local TV and never would have come to this point had it not been for CJNT Montreal – a station now on the market for sale. I was saddened by the news last month but from a business POV, you can’t argue with it.

Sadly, I fear that chopping the local TV station is going to continue long after the economy recovers from the recession – largely because of the growing convenience and acceptance of the internet. It’s simply becoming too expensive to sustain a local TV station’s operations. Don’t agree with me? Ask 5 people where they went go get their news today. Depending on who (and when) you’ve asked, I don’t think the local evening news will be as popular of a choice as it was a few years ago. And nor will print versions of newspapers. So why invest in the local evening (or morning) news if viewers today have 24-hour news channels, online information updated 3 times per minute and access to all of it on their mobile phones? The answer, in my opinion is obvious but hard to swallow because we are proud of our local culture.

Is local TV doomed? What will we do without it? Or is there something that can be done to ensure local communities are represented on Canadian airwaves?

Nothing Wrong with McD’s Filet O’ Fish!

March 10, 2009 Leave a comment

This spot made me smile. Not only is it hilarious to see McDonald’s resorting to talking wall fish as a way to connect with its audiences; but it’s also reassuring to know that we haven’t forgotten about “the forbidden McDonald’s trio”…. I mean seriously, am I the only the one who feels like a second class customer when I order a fish filet?

Adidas Is Pop Culture in 60 seconds

March 6, 2009 1 comment

Take a moment (actually a 60 seconds) to watch this clip by Sid Lee. They’re the creative agency responsible for the multi platform campaign celebrating Adidas’ 60th birthday. Let me start by saying: WOW! My hair stood up and so did I (out of my chair, really – folks at my office think I’m crazy). But seriously, the challenge of capturing the cultural essence of a brand like Adidas is a big deal and I think SL has hit it a grand slam. For me, Adidas is one of those key pillars of pop culture and this video positions the brand as exactly that. The cameos, the music, the unapologetic attitude – it all hits home for me – as I’m sure it has for many.

Whatdyouthink? Home run or am I overly excited about just another branded music video? Also please holler back if you know the music track!

Have a great weekend!

The 30-second TV Commercial is NOT dead!

March 5, 2009 Leave a comment

The television ad business is going through a major transition (along with everything else). If you’re in the biz, you’ve probably heard someone criticize “display advertising” (ads that simply run adjacent to content), of which the 30-second TV commercial is King. It’s the foundation for the ad business – more expensive to buy, produce and maintain than any other medium. But as recordable TV and broadband video become more widely accepted, the 30-second format is increasingly being cut / questioned by media planners and ad critics.

I work in national ad sales and can imagine what it must be like for my clients. Picture this – your firm spends $30,000 on 30-seconds of national commercial airtime (very cheap) plus $50k to produce a slick spot with all the right stuff (talent, voiceover, post production, talking fish, etc). You’re sitting at home watching 24 and your commercial comes on. But before you can say “hey, I paid for that”, your buddy grabs the remote and effortlessly fast forwards over your hard work and money. Ouch.

Online, it is a VERY different story. When you watch video online, one advertiser’s commercial is shown preceding the content you’re about to watch. You can’t fast forward or skip it. The client’s creative is left in tact, in its entirety. And I know that as a viewer myself, I gladly sit through video pre-rolls with no complaints. Why? Because I’VE ASKED to watch the content I’m about to receive on MY OWN time and I think it’s reasonable to watch 30-seconds of paid material for 24 minutes of free entertainment.

To all the media planners out there: Are your clients complaining about the impact of their 30-sec TVC?
Here’s the answer: ONLINE VIDEO PRE-ROLLS.

Things to consider with VPRs:
> SOV: It’s a new format and achieving high share of voice is easy as a first mover.
> IMPACT: With only one ad to watch per video, viewers are willing to pay more attention.
> TARGETING: Online, you can easily isolate by time, region or daypart (on television this is not so).
> FLEXIBILTY: VPRs are available in 7-sec, 15-sec or 30-sec formats.

So is the 30-second spot dead? NO. It’s just evolving with the technology that delivers it to the audience.

*** Let me close with a shout out to Jaffe’s book “Life After the 30-Second Spot” – I have not read it yet but look forward to getting to it. I’m sure his insight on this topic is far more expansive.