ad funded programming, broadcasting, television, viewing

Opening up the store: how Sainsbury’s gave us an authentic and balanced window into their world

Becky_craze brilliant bit of PR from Sainsbury's last night in the form of I'm Running Sainsbury's on Channel 4.  in the first of four episodes, Becky Craze aimed to prove that her idea of bagging a meal would not only deliver on Sainsbury's feed your family for a fiver efforts, but would help the coffers of the supermarket giant, which we were reliably informed are to the tune of £30k per minute.

described by C4 head of factual
entertainment Andrew Mackenzie
as "a look at the psychology of shopping and an opportunity to understand
the institutions where we spend our money" the show – made by Silver River – was a genuinely balanced view of life working at the retailer.

overnights are reasonable – pulling in 1.6 million viewers and an 8% share, with a further
284,000 watching on catchup service Channel 4+1 an hour later (source MediaGuardian).  and the show seems to be generating a fair amount of chatter online.

positives were the genuine support that colleagues seemed to give each other
(especially in the stores) and the enthusiasm of Becky to make a real difference to the company for which she works.  negatives were the patronising looks and comments from more senior figures within the company.  but with such negatives came credibility, the programme had an authenticity which I suspect will do well for the retailer.

but the real insight for me was the growth of own label.  Sainsbury's products in Sainsbury's now number 15,000 lines and account for half of all the sales in the supermarket.  one in every two items sold in Sainsbury's is own label.  and they're clearly holding their margin – the own label reportedly count for – nearly – half of all revenues).  enough to make any doubters of the continued rise of the retailer think twice.

next week should be fun, the show will feature an enthusiastic employee who takes the store to the customer – "it's not really stalking" she observes, "it's targeting".

ad funded programming, advertising, branding, broadcasting, content creating, converging, engaging, gaming, innovating, internet, planning

From theory to practice: the challenge of planning Transmedia

Keith Arem's graphic novel Ascend, for which a game is currently in development

it's now been over two years since Faris bought transmedia planning to our attention in his post of the same name on TIGS.  the theory has been well expounded in the period since then; with

I'm sure that the idea of TP has cropped up in most media, comms and ad agencies by now…  it certainly has in Mediation's.  but we've yet to see – as far as I can make out – a significant campaign emerge based on TP principles.  the same is actually true of the entertainment industry; in an interview with Games TM magazine(edition 75), Henry Jenkins – the Godfather of TP – concedes that truly persuasive examples have yet to arrive.

they're doing better than us though.  transmedia planning should be everywhere by now.  the theory is familiar and is not only relatively unchallenged, but is offers the very solution to some of the biggest marketing challenges of the moment.  of its many advantages, the primary benefit has to be the extent to which it pays back on the time taken to consume it.  Jenkins goes on to observe that "regardless of the commercial motives behind it, transmedia entertainment done well also provides rewards for fans".

so why is getting the theory working in practice so difficult?  here's some starters for ten…

firstly, the financial investment required.  the reason the best examples of TM largely remain in the entertainment arena (the Matrix, Cloverfield, Heroes, Lost etc) because it takes a significant chunk of investment to develop and then create the content often required.  the commercial models for Fox or Paramount are set up to do this, the commercial models for marketeers often aren't.

but this is a bit of a cop out.  for the cost of making three 30 second ads you can certainly afford to make an episodic drama for online distribution.  and no it doesn't matter if it's not going to go on broadcast TV because those people who consume AV content online are exactly those people most likely to 'get' transmedia narratives…  this means of course that the media budgeting has to evolve just as much as the production pot.

no, the real issues in making TP happen lie much closer to home than 'we don't have the budget' territory.  they are twofold, the first of which is we're bound to the conventions of the media spaces we use.  in the Games TM article mentioned above, .  he observes that:

"if a project requires a 30-minute budget introduction, games can do that, but the medium could just as easily offer six high-budget five-hour episodes to revolutionise the story.  film and television are still limited by rigid series structures and minimum lengths".

advertisers on those channels are bound by those same conventions; conventions we as an industry – planners, buyers and media-owners (and indeed Ofcom) alike need to start challenging.  it's the limitations of the spot model that in many cases is preventing transmedia's breakthrough into broadcast channels; and as long as transmedia only exists online, it's unlikely to capture the imagination of marketeers or the budgets of FDs.

but the final barrier to making TM happen in brand comms is the closet to home of all.  Jenkins notes that TM experiences can "be a source of … frustration [for consumers] if it's inconsistent, undermines the coherence of the work, or promises insights it never delivers".  Arem's solution is simple: "have a good team of like-minded individuals around you … my philosophy for all of our projects is to have a core team to supervise all creative and technical aspects of the production.  the main focus of that team is to keep the story and assets consistent, and integrate them with the entire franchise".

I think you know where I'm going with this.  agency structures are lucky if they can do this internally let alone with other agencies, resulting in the presention of a joined up and unified transmedia solution to a client.  not only might different creative agencies have to work to one vision, but that vision has to be molded by the space planned by its media agency, and of course vice versa.

the reality is that as long as the conversation with a client only gets as far as "how big is the pack shot?", both agencies and clients will be bound to a dynamic that not only acts as a barrier to transmedia planning, but actively works against it emerging into the mainstream where it so surely deserves to belong.

ad funded programming, broadcasting, selling, television

‘Together we’re stronger’ is the message as ITV takes an optimistic tone at the 2009 upfronts

Britannia high
as optimistic as it gets: ITV's Britannia High

'together we're stronger' was the message to media agencies at last week's 2009 upfronts presentation on the Southbank.  and strong is indeed what ITV is going to need us all to be.  with Tesco now openly talking about Q1 2009 being an 'Ice Age' in consumer spending, all media owners are bracing themselves for tough conditions ahead.  the message from ITV is simple: TV is the most effective channel for brand building and behaviour change, commercial TV is more popular than ever, and in real terms the cost of airtime is the same as it was in 1992.  that and a billion pound commitment to the programming budget to boot.

it's all compelling stuff and ITV has plenty to be pleased about; ITV2 and ITV3 are the top two MC channels, over 80% of the schedule is UK original programming, and (with Kangaroo still in the pipeline) is starting to make some strides in online for the corporation – we were informed that three alternate endings to the Liam storyline generated 650k views in one weekend.  who knew.

upcoming programming looks good (you can view the reel here) and includes the remake of The Prisoner with Sir Ian McKellen, and Demons (an early Saturday night partner for Primeval).  ITV have also recently locked down a deal which will see Sage ad-fund the return of the Krypton Factor, with Julian Smith, Planning Account Director at ITV, commenting that it marked "the biggest ad-funded and multi-platform programme ITV has
commissioned and the first one to appear in ITV1’s prime time schedule"

Mediation asked Peter Fincham – ITV's new Director of Television – why it had taken so long for an AFP to make it into primetime.  he noted that commissioning lead times are often very different to those of brands, and that keeping an audience and a brand happy aren't always the same thing.  but the main barrier seemed to be cost – with a Q&A panel adding that brands often baulk at the price tag that comes with making your own show.  this is probably fair and true, and a new approach that starts with what the schedule needs rather than what advertisers dictate is a good starting point – no brand wants to invest in a programme that is simply not going to rate no matter how on-brand it is.

one of the stars of the show was Sunday nights new effort Britannia High (above) which despite buying pretty much every 6 sheet on the underground was severely trounced in the ratings by Antiques roadshow on BBC1 (its viewers may be – according to Fincham – a "coach load of old people", but that there quite a big coach).

part of the problem with Britannia High has been the marketing.  not sure that a 6 sheet campaign really cuts it – especially with a show like this.  my guess is a lot of people just didn't know what to expect, that's not a position a new peak-time show on ITV wants to be in.  it would have been so easy to run some kind of audition-concept format in the run up to TX that would have also explained what to expect.  suspect that it will have momentum but it's an opportunity missed for the channel.  you only get to launch once.

one other gripe is that ITV do rather want to seem to have their cake and eat it…  they're very happy to deliver mass audiences (and so they should), but their targeting ability was demonstrated at a channel level (see below), with ITV1 equaling optimism and ITV2 fun and younger etc.  solid positionings but in a multichannel world you can get more precise targeting elsewhere for less.

ITV_channelsstronger targeting delivering effectiveness (source: ITV upfronts presentation)

the case study for targeting was Harveys' sponsorship of Coronation Street which has generated 3.5m red button interactions with the brand.  a great result but hardly the best example of a targeted proposition.

all in all though a confident performance from the corporation.  here's to the optimism holding as the chill of an economic ice-age starts to bite.

ad funded programming, advertising, branding, content creating, experiencing, planning, regulating, viewing

Transparency; how Mother’s Pot Noodle has it and MG OMD’s Beat: Life on the Street doesn’t

on a visit to Edinburgh's Fringe Festival this weekend Mediation was lucky enough to catch a performance of Pot Noodle: The Musical.  created by Mother Vision, the show is a surreal and entertaining hour long advert for Pot Noodle – and it doesn't really pretend to be anything else.  in fact its quite clear on the matter…  its an ad.  it knows it is.  its written in the script.

I couldn't help but contrast this to the recent discussion and debate there's been around MG OMD's AFP for the Home Office.  Beat: Life on the Street was a Sunday night show first broadcast last year on ITV.  the show is now reportedly being investigated by Ofcom amid concerns it broke the broadcasting code requiring that programmes "must not influence the content and/or scheduling of a channel or
programme in such a way as to impair the responsibility and editorial
independence of the broadcaster".

so what we have here are two very different bits of content, each designed to form part of the brand narrative for two very different organisations.  but whereas one has (at the time of writing) a two and a bit star rating on the Fringe website, the other is being investigated by the regulator.  what sent them in such different directions?

well… what divides them is transparency.  Pot Noodle's musical has it, and Beat: Life on the Street just doesn't.

you can't make a programme that's funded by the Government and which is specifically designed to change people's perceptions of a state organisation and not tell people thats what it is and what its trying to do.  that's not smart media planning, its propaganda.

what's such a shame is the strategy from MG OMD is great.  in a video on the site, Head of Strategy Jon Gittings comments that the aim of the the programme was to amplify the real experience the public has with PCSOs, to:

"use communication to recreate [the] direct content that would then go on to increase value [of PCSOs] … we would create virtual experiences that bring PCSOs and the community together"

thats great thinking.  de-branding it is not.  brands have to be explicit about their intent.  whether you make noodle snacks or uphold the law, you have to protect your integrity.  say what you like about Pot Noodle making a musical, they were up front about what they were doing…

as one comment on the Fringe site notes: "I doubt that i'll ever be convinced that branded shows at Edinburgh are
a good thing but i struggle to criticise when i'm entertained as such"

well I doubt that I'll ever need convincing that smart relevant content creation – including AFP – can play a part on many a schedule; but I'll sure as hell won't struggle to criticise it when brands and (worse) their agencies think they can do so without being honest about the communications' intent.


thanks to Phil who pointed me in the direction of a BBC report on Pot Noodle which includes an interview with the creatives from Mother who devised the thing…