The "Advertising 360" panel at Cable Show '09 could have been called "Advertising Sucks" or "Does Advertising Suck?" or perhaps "How to Make Advertising Not Suck."
Moderator Shelly Palmer, managing director of Advanced Media Ventures Group, was a lively devil's advocate, vowing at the beginning of the discussion to keep attendees awake.
"Advertising sucks," he declared.
Consumers will do just about anything to avoid advertising, posited Palmer. And with DVRs infiltrating more TV households (approximately 30%), the problem for programmers and advertisers is approaching critical mass.
"I don't think all advertising sucks," said Linda Yaccarino, executive vice president and COO of ad sales, marketing and acquisitions at Turner, noting that she had never actually used the word "suck" during a panel discussion. "I don't think everyone avoids advertising 100% of the time."
Programmers and marketers are redefining the business model with 360-degree marketing that taps into network brands and engages consumers on multiple platforms via viewer-participation contests, event marketing, in-store presence, etc.
For example, Unilever and Turner collaborated on a Dove campaign in the TNT series Trust Me, which conveniently lent itself to integrated marketing because the drama is set at an advertising agency. The campaign had the series' characters designing a campaign for Dove shampoo. There was also a consumer contest that asked viewers to design their own Dove campaign. Turner and Unilever began their collaboration when the show was in the development process.
"Nothing was retrofit," said Yaccarino. "It was all custom. When we started, there was a grain of an idea for a show.
There was a hope that it could grow these long tentacles into many different platforms."
The integration may have been artful, organic, even authentic, lulling viewers into watching an episode-long commercial for Dove. But for advertisers, the only measurement is units sold.
"At the end of the day it doesn't mean anything unless we're selling more shampoo," said Rob Master, director of North American media at Unilever.
The goal is to "drive people's beliefs and impressions about a brand to get them to buy more product."
The goal: move product without inundating the viewer with a six-minute commercial pod, which can, of course, alienate the consumer.
"We are the good guys because without us you'd be watching Lonely Girl on your 40- inch plasma in your living room," said Master. "Without us [quality] TV shows would not exist."
Or they would be a lot more expensive - for the consumer.
"Consider the alternative," said Keith Bowen, chief revenue officer of TV One: pay-per-view commercial television?
"Do you want to pay $5 a week to watch Law & Order," asked Bowen. "That sucks."