Friday, July 4, 2014

Bad Business

TV viewing with Knight
Some marketing campaigns are so bad or so embarrassing that you wonder how they ever got off the ground.  One ad that makes me flat-out angry every time I see it is the Time Warner Cable series, where former football coach Bill Cowher walks into a family’s home and just starts talking to them about TWC’s services.  In one commercial, the marketing geniuses behind the ad actually have the nerve to make Cowher read this line: “You shouldn’t have to buy what you don’t want.”  This from the company that makes me buy an entire package of cable channels just so I can get ESPN and FX.

Really, Bill Cowher?  I shouldn’t have to buy what I don’t want?  Well, I don’t want LMN, or MTV (which has become a misnomer), or Oxygen, or TLC (a/k/a The Learning Channel, which is also a misnomer as its programming is dominated by shows like “Say Yes to The Dress: Atlanta”), or any of the other garbage you’re shoving down my throat.  So why, Bill, am I buying all of this brain-dead programming that I don’t want?  Because your company won’t allow me to create my own ala carte cable package, that’s why.

And while on the topic of ESPN, that network is responsible for one of the most embarrassing marketing campaigns in recent history.  They just moved into a new television studio so they created a commercial (that they’re airing on Sports Center to viewers who are already watching, oddly) where they mingle images of their new studio with clips from the new Planet of the Apes movie.  The unifying theme is that we must adapt to beat our rivals.  The ad is so foolish and the analogy so ineffective that the commercial literally motivates me to change the channel—often to other channels I don’t want, like ScyFy, Tru, or Lifetime, all of which send me racing back to ESPN.

Nearly as embarrassing as the ESPN commercial was the recent NBA finals commercial, where, for some odd reason, the NBA executives thought it would be a good idea to mingle NBA highlights with clips from the new Tom Cruise action-sci-fi film—a film (the title of which I cannot remember) that I wouldn’t watch if it were offered commercial-free on network television.  This marketing campaign is equally senseless as ESPN’s, but at least it didn’t pretend to have a theme (at least not that I can remember).

This bad business—making already marginal programming even worse with bad advertising—makes me appreciate smart television and good advertising when I see it.  Take, for example, FX’s recently concluded single-season series Fargo.  The television show, unlike the movie, was set primarily in Minnesota; however, the culture and weather are virtually the same as they are in North Dakota.  So what would be a good advertising tie-in for a smart television show set in a cold, snowy climate?  One of the show’s sponsors was, fittingly, Audi—makers of all-wheel drive vehicles.  And that is how you do that.    

NBA and ESPN execs need to start watching FX to learn about effective advertising.  If they don’t have it in their existing packages, maybe Bill Cowher can get them a deal through TWC.

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