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VW’s Super Bowl ads – from “Little Darth” to just plain daft

February 2, 2012

Commercially, it’s the greatest show on Earth, with 30-second spots commanding over $3.5m apiece – an up to 30% increase on the previous season. ITV chief executive Adam Crozier can only gaze upon his 2016 Rio Olympics slots, wish he was at the helm of NBC, and despair.

Yes, it’s the Super Bowl, coming your way (if you have satellite or cable) this weekend – a US sports fest so intense that no advertiser of substance – in cars, beer, movies, softs drinks or snacks – can comfortably afford to exclude itself from the 111 million expected viewers and not-to-be-surpassed Nielsen awareness ratings.

So great advertising too? Frankly, despite the unique showcase, most ads aren’t as super as they might be. That’s for a variety of reasons. Some clients like to play it safe (and can you blame them, with that amount of money at stake?). Others overdo it. Drunk with earlier success, they get too tricksy and self-referential.

I wonder if Volkswagen and Deutsch LA haven’t fallen into that trap. Last year, they stole the show with “The Force” (aka “Little Darth”), which made Nielsen’s coveted annual “Most Liked” list and took a Cannes Gold Lion for dessert.

This year, they’ve stuck to Star Wars but gone for animals rather than children. See what you think:

I’m afraid I’m with the Dark Father on this one. The bloke with the funny prosthetic nose is just plain wrong.

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How game-changing is PepsiCo’s media alliance with InBev?

April 7, 2010

Cynics see in Anheuser-Busch Inbev’s decision to pool its US media buying resources with those of PepsiCo two wounded warriors propping each other up for support. Firepower is not the issue here; between them they spent $1.15bn on measured media (Kantar) last year.  It is their fighting efficiency which has been under par.

In other words, both parties to the deal feel they are paying the main media far too much and by doubling their negotiating clout they will extract a big dividend.

They may well be right. Media owners, from NBC to Viacom, certainly have reason to be apprehensive. Heretofore, A-B’s media buying performance – which is the responsibility of an inhouse team, Busch Media Group – can best be described as sleepy and would certainly benefit from an infusion of new energy, even if that does come from OMD – which has done an adequate, although hardly effervescent, job for PepsiCo.

The bigger question is where such co-operation might eventually lead. And it’s one for agencies, rather than media owners.

The current PepsiCo/InBev pact began only three months ago as what appeared to be a classic procurement ploy. Indeed, at the time, a PepsiCo spokesman was quoted as saying that “the consortium is not related to media costs or marketing”. Instead it would concern itself with “backroom issues” such as travel, office supplies and computers. As we can now see, the PepsiCo spokesman was not entirely candid, except in one respect. The follow-up media procurement exercise is not targeted at cutting costs so much as spending existing budgets more wisely – on such key events as the annual Super Bowl.

Assuming success in this latest initiative, what efficiencies will the consortium target next? Both companies have been at pains to exclude the possibility of advertising production or agency fees coming into its remit. But as the short history of this joint-venture already demonstrates, client assurances may not stack up to much.

Just as concerning for agencies, this trend might catch on elsewhere. Whatever next in the consolidation game? Coca-Cola and Diageo? General Motors and McDonald’s? Microsoft and Motorola?

Mind you, it’s just as possible that this new-fangled media collaboration will tumble at the first hurdle if, as may happen, Pepsi and InBev end up squabbling over prime-time precedence during the Super Bowl.


Simon Fuller revolutionises the TV pilot

December 19, 2009

I was intrigued to read (in the Financial Times) that Simon Fuller, founder of 19 Entertainment, intends to pilot his new show not on television but on the internet.

Fuller, who devised American Idol, US television’s most successful format in years, has developed a new venture called If I Can Dream. I quote: It “will follow the efforts of five young people trying to break into the entertainment industry. Their every move will be streamed online, with the audience able to interact with them via video messages and social networking sites such as Twitter and MySpace.”

Clearly this represents a step-change beyond the reality entertainment of Big Brother, with digital interactivity moving centre-stage instead of acting as a useful ancillary. But the real beauty of his digital strategy is that it will massively reduce the cost of producing a pilot on US network TV.

How so? Well, Fuller intends to use Hulu, an online video entertainment platform jointly owned by Fox, ABC and NBC, which will enable him to build a web audience, slowly but steadily, for several months before launching on TV. Hulu had about 42 million viewers in October.

Could something similar happen in the UK (home of American Idol’s prototype, Pop Idol)? After all  the tears and gnashing of teeth in the IPTV sector over the regulator’s refusal to endorse the Kangaroo project, the odds might seem low. Not so, necessarily. I read in the same edition of the FT that Project Canvas, a joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Five and BT aimed at standardising online video technology, has taken on a new spurt of life. It has now added Channel 4 and TalkTalk to its ranks. That leaves only BSkyB (sister company of Fox) as a significant outsider.

There’s hope yet for a triumph of common sense.


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