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Mediacom Marketing Digest 10 June 2005

10 JUNE 2005

The Knowledge Gap

One of the problems with a demand-driven television ratecard is the fact that only the sellers know what demand actually exists out in the market. Without a transparent, accountable process, there's no objective measure of true demand, especially when broadcasters can simply hold back inventory at will. By and large, current demand is whatever the broadcasters say it is.

Yes, the sellers of that often-sought-after commodity, television airtime, are perfectly entitled to manipulate the market as they wish, but wouldn't it be nice if those of us on the other side of the manipulation had a better understanding of true marketplace dynamics? At the very least such knowledge would tilt the playing field ever so slightly back in favour of those who pay the bills.

There is an alternative.

As an industry, we have all the information we need about the airtime that's been purchased - and, by extrapolation, what's still unsold. We just don't share it. That's all well and good, and perfectly understandable in a competitive marketplace. But what if the raw data was pooled for a common good?

Most of the information could be compiled easily enough, since many agencies and independents use industry-wide accounting systems such as Pegasus; information from other IT systems could be extracted and exported with little difficulty. Trusted independent analysts such as Nielsen or MediaSenz (or even a newly-constituted industry-owned joint venture) could be commissioned to analyse the numbers, by TV programme, category and channel and publish the results for all to see.

How would such a scheme be funded? By a fragment of a percentage of total television adspend, levied in the same fashion as the existing ASA levy.

Heresy or bold new vision? We welcome your feedback as always, to newsletter@mediacom.co.nz. Light touch paper, stand well back.

WE LOVE NEW SUBSCRIBERS You are welcome to forward this newsletter to colleagues or friends. If this newsletter has been forwarded to you, we encourage you to subscribe - it's FREE. Simply send an email with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line to subscribe@mediacom.co.nz .

Radio With Newsprint The New Zealand Press Association has finally decided it's in the news-distribution business, not just killing trees, and is to supply its national news wire to CanWest RadioWorks for broadcast on Radio Live. It's the first contract NZPA has secured outside the supply of news to its traditional daily/Sunday newspaper market since it reinvented itself earlier this year.

NZPA was founded 125 years ago as a co-operative agency through which daily and Sunday newspapers shared their copy. Over the past decade the agency has developed its own news gathering capabilities and can now supply news to any media on a non-exclusive basis.

It's not the first time that NZPA stories have powered radio bulletins. Over the years many radio journalists began their days with ink-stained fingers, power-walking through the day's papers and then repurposing the content for the hourly news update. The smell of an oily rag that permeated the good ship Tiri (home to the early Hauraki pirates) was often accompanied by the bouquet of burning newsprint, as the cash-strapped radio pioneers used "rip and read" as an instruction to be literally applied to the Herald.

Reuters et al. diversified their distribution millennia ago. Whilst we worry that the new direction of the NZPA may eventually reduce the number of impartial observers involved in news gathering, there are still enough independent voices to ensure a reasonably fair airing of most points of view.

Anyway, if the news gets too stifled, there's always blogs ....

Send in The Clones - Don't Bother, They're Here Planning law should be used to protect town centres from domination by national retailers, according to a report by the British New Economics Foundation. A new NEF survey, Clone Town Britain, said that 42 per cent of UK towns are now clone towns with few local retailers, and a further 26 per cent are under threat.

"In the place of real local shops has come a near-identical package of chain stores replicating on the nation's high streets. As a result, the individual character of many of our town centres is evaporating. Retail spaces once filled with independent butchers, newsagents, tobacconists, pubs, book shops, greengrocers and family-owned general stores are becoming filled with supermarket retailers, fast-food chains, and global fashion outlets.

"Many town centres that have undergone substantial regeneration have even lost the distinctive facades of their high streets, as local building materials have been swapped in favour of identical glass, steel, and concrete storefronts that provide the ideal degree of sterility to house a string of big, clone town retailers".

It's a phenomenon that affects people whether they are rich or poor, as Nick Foulkes pointed out writing in the London Evening Standard, "The homogenisation of our high streets is a crime against our culture. The smart ones get the international clones - Ralph Lauren, DKNY, Starbucks and Gap; while those lower down the socio-economic hierarchy end up with Nando's, McDonald's, Blockbuster and Ladbrokes."

The NEF argues: "Britain doesn't have to become a nation of clone towns. The homogenisation of high streets is not benign or inevitable. Just as regulatory changes have allowed it, the right changes can begin to turn back the tide. As the survey results show; there is still time for action to protect the identity of our towns, and to prevent our border towns becoming clone towns".

Even the lists of topics in the report make delightful reading:

* Corporate culture and the loss of diversity * Declining Diversity: a global phenomenon * The more things change, the more they become the same * The industrialisation of eating * Cloning beauty: the drive to perfection * Visual monotony * Speaking fewer tongues * The backlash against blandness

We have an electronic copy of the report that launched the Clone Town survey, yours for the asking at newsletter@mediacom.co.nz . Thank goodness it couldn't happen in New Zealand!

One Price Fits All? In a shocking development this week, a new survey revealed that most American consumers don't realize Internet merchants and even traditional retailers sometimes charge different prices to different customers for the same products.

The study, "Open to Exploitation," found that nearly two-thirds of adult Internet users believed incorrectly it was illegal to charge different people different prices, a practice retailers call "price customisation." More than two-thirds of people surveyed also said they believed online travel sites are required by law to offer the lowest airline prices possible.

The study, by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, is the latest to cast doubt on the notion of sophisticated consumers in the digital age. It said 87 percent of people strongly objected to the practice of online stores charging people different prices for the same products.

The survey also demonstrates (if there was any doubt) that it's still possible to make a living between the margins.

We can barely imagine what consumers would say if they knew anything about the differential pricing charged to advertisers for the same basic commodities ...

The Fat Club Wants You In the past three years former sportscaster and Silver Fern April Bruce has got married, changed careers, had two children .... and put on 35 kilos!

Now she is going to take that weight off - every weekday on national television in her new series, Fat Club. Talk about conspicuous non-consumption!

Screening twice daily each weekday (once for stay-at-home caregivers and once outside normal working hours for daytime workers), Fat Club will follow April and three others as they shed those extra kilos over 25 weeks.

Based in the 'fear factory' of many a dieter - a kitchen - April will be trying to shed 30-plus kilos. Her regular studio companions - two other women and one man - will be trying to shed 10, 20 and 40 kilos respectively.

In much the same way as Oprah Winfrey's Diet Club, the audience can download a contract from the Fat Club website - sign that contract with themselves or register it on the Fat Club website, then pin it on the fridge and begin dieting! It's not going to be easy - but the show will try its best to make the dieters at home feel 'part of the club'. Fat Club will - at least according to the producers - be the place to boost your ego, get all the tips, get the psychological boost that dieters so crave, learn about 'safe' treats and join in the weigh-in! You won't be alone - even if you are standing on the scales in front of your TV set!

Regular visitors to the Fat Club kitchen will include a chef, psychologist, pharmacist, dietician, doctor and daily success stories - people who've taken it off and kept it off will get their chance to inspire the viewers!

The psychological emphasis will be clearly on how much you've lost rather than how much you weigh and the website and print companion will offer additional information and advertiser opportunities.

The 25-week, stripped daily series (total 125 episodes) will be advertiser-funded and producers Touchdown are currently looking for sponsors.

Each episode will be screened twice on TVNZ (on same day) and three times on Sky's Living Channel.

Want more info? What have you got to lose?

ABOUT MEDIACOM MEDIACOM, with offices in 80 countries, is one of the world's largest and most respected independent media planning and buying organisations.

We create media solutions that build business for a wide range of local, regional and worldwide clients.

With $13 billion in global billings, a commitment to strategic insight, total communications planning, tactical media brilliance and tough but creative media negotiating, MEDIACOM provides unsurpassed value in today's chaotic media marketplace.

ENDS

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