Hey Look… Up In The Sky…

Conan BlimpIt’s a bird. It’s a plane. No… it’s super… wait a minute. Yay, it’s Conan!!!

Over the New York City skyline is a piece of one of this year’s most well thought out cross-channel marketing efforts: a drive to the premiere of Conan on TBS.

Flying over the 5 boroughs is a bright orange blimp (that has nothing to do with Nickelodeon). If you see it in the sky, you can check into it using Foursquare, at which time you’ll receive a special Conan “blimpspotter” badge. The badge has no real value, but offers one-click bragging rights when you announce to your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter that you got something they don’t. I got it on October 20,2010 at 3:34pm. Conan Blimpspotter Badge

Not surprisingly, the Team Coco had the blimp heading over to Yankee Stadium (big audience with open sky access, free TV coverage, you know the drill).

This also benefitted Foursquare, which took advantage of the crowd by distributing a “Swarm” badge to everyone who had checked in once the total reached 50. They even used marketing speak in the email, by calling it a “flash mob” for all us early adopters.

Another piece of the Conan program is a live webcam (that started yesterday — October 20,2010) in the “stairwell of [their] comedy bunker.” You never knows what you’ll get on arrival, but it’s clearly improv in his planned, but random style. As I’m writing this, I’m being serenaded by a 3-piece mariachi band. If only there were margaritas.

They’re doing a wonderful job building buzz, and are demonstrating a much clearer understanding of how to use digital and social media. I’d also wager they are doing it for a fraction of what the Peacock Network spends marketing The Tonight Show.

Conan, Bravo… er… I mean TBS!!!

I look forward to seeing you again on November 8th.


On the consumer-facing side of the network delivery world there’s a movement toward offering what’s being referred to as “Quality of Service” (QoS). In case this sounds like another language, swap out “network delivery” for “Broadband service.”

On the surface, the term and corresponding acronym sound pretty good. Something along the lines of “yeah, I think I’d prefer having QoS to not having QoS,” right?!


As a consumer, the most likely place you’ll see QoS is from your broadband provider (DSL from the phone company or Cable Modem from the cable company), and it basically boils down to one thing:

Preferential treatment.

Again, on the surface it sounds like something you’d want, right?! Maybe, but I don’t think it’s really good for you… sort of like Nutrasweet.

This preferential treatment splits into services and content, but pretty much functions the same way. Explained separately:

Services: For argument’s sake, let’s say you have a cable modem and your cable provider offers phone service via your cable modem (known as “Voice over IP” or “VOIP”). QoS comes into play when your cable company puts into place the mechanism to prioritize that phone service on the network.

Still sounds pretty good right?

Ok, but consider this… Change one piece of the equation. You still have your trusty cable modem, but for your VOIP phone, you’ve decided to use a third party company (e.g. Vonage). In a QoS world, you’ve just unwillingly become a second-class citizen to your neighbor who decided to give all the business to the cable company.

Push this out a couple of years and we’re in a world of regional monopolies, not unlike the days of “Ma Bell.” Bet you no longer get your “all you can eat” package for $24.95. Hubbub about QoS and associated network costs would almost definitely become the cable company topic du jour.

Now let’s talk about the other side of the QoS coin:

Content: For about a decade, content companies (from the old guard Hollywood studios to the new world behemoths Yahoo! and Google to start-ups) have been trying to monetize their content on the Internet. The major problem that they’ve faced is that the Internet was born free and established itself in the minds of the public as such. Despite the illegality of stealing music online (MP3’s), this reinforced the idea that what once cost money now doesn’t have to. QoS comes into play when your DSL or Cable Modem provider decides to strike “carriage deals” with content companies. From here, it pretty much plays out the same as above. If yours struck a deal with Google and you are a diehard Yahoo! fan, your neighbor might be getting preferential treatment.

Here’s what I have to say about QoS to the broadband providers:

Stop trying to force fit my Internet into a monetized model that you understand from existing distribution channels. Your job is to figure out a better model (e.g. more speed, more reliability) that works for me because don’t forget, the Internet isn’t yours, it’s mine. You are just the pipe. If you forget that, for even a minute, I’ll do my business elsewhere. I know and understand that you and the content companies need to make money, but it won’t be at my experiential expense.

Seacrest out!!!

(No relation, just always wanted to say that)


About six months ago we ordered a pizza for dinner. When it showed up, instead of the corny “You’ve tried all the rest, now try the best” slogan, it was a bright turquoise box with a huge Snapple advertisement across the front.

My first thought was that this was the brilliant idea of a creative advertising executive. Not only minimal spend for maximum exposure, but a pennies on the dollar spend. Simplified, figure that Snapple negotiated a deal with a pizza box manufacturer to pay for the production and discounted distribution of the boxes (providing incentive to both the manufacturer and the local pizzerias). If the campaign was for 100,000 boxes, it might have cost Snapple a total of $150,000 and represents an inconsequential percentage of Snapple’s annual advertising budget for exposure that probably lasted over a month.

There are of course there are limitations to this genius. While soft drinks certainly go hand-in-hand with pizza in terms of product placement, I seriously doubt if a Volkswagen or Jeep add on a pizza box would incline anyone to consider looking at a new car.

On another note, Columbia Pictures recently struck a deal with Major League Baseball to place “Spiderman 2” logos on the bases during pre-game play. Despite the public outcry that caused MLB to balk at a bigger ($3.6 million) nationwide marketing deal, what was the studio executive who made that decision thinking in the first place? If advertising is about gaining mindshare to drive sales, is there logic in thinking that placement of a movie logo on a base that most spectators can hardly see will drive ticket sales? And how could you even begin to measure the success of the campaign. One might argue that the negative reaction of fans got enough people talking to make it a viral smash hit. The question for the studio is was that the intention of the executive from the start, or was it a stroke of luck?

Hollywood studios often have marketing budgets for their tentpole pictures that approach the production costs. While an automobile advertisement on a pizza box is a ridiculous notion, the marketing of a movie could be a brilliant win-win-win for everyone (and at a whole lot less than $3.6 million).

Here’s how it works:

First, the studio starts strikes a distribution deal with a national chain like Domino’s to produce and distribute the desired number of branded boxes over the desired timeframe (of course the same thing could also be done nationwide or regionally with local pizzerias in the Snapple fashion). Next, they put a code onto the ad (this will be made clear in a minute). Last, they strike a deal with moviefone.com and/or movietickets.com to allow customers to purchase tickets for showings using the code from the ad before they go on sale to the public.

How it’s a win-win-win:

Hollywood Studio

Win #1: Using $1.50 as the per box price (which I’d be willing to guess is VERY conservative), a one million box campaign would carry a cost of $1,500,000, which is still less than half of the proposed MLB campaign above.

Win #2: Instead of select 3 hour windows, the campaign lasts about a month and has repeated placement for people who buy more than one pizza a month.

Win #3: In conjunction with moviefone.com and/or movietickets.com, depending on the nature of the code placed on the box, the success of the campaign can be measured. A single code would be a straight “click-through” measurement (100,000 pre-sold tickets = 10% conversion). Regional or individual box codes allow for potentially quite a bit more data about the individual ticket buyer.

Domino’s (or pizza box manufacturer and local pizzeria)

Win #1: Cash and/or lower cost of operations for duration of campaign.

Win #2: Depending on the nature of the code in the advertisment, the promotion could drive sales in pizza during the campaign.

Win #3: Product tie-in.

moviefone.com and/or movietickets.com

Win #1: Pre-sale of tickets at full price (with full markup).

Win #2: In conjunction with the Hollywood studio, depending on the nature of the code placed on the box, the success of the campaign can be measured. A single code would be a straight “click-through” measurement (100,000 pre-sold tickets = 10% conversion). Regional or individual box codes allow for potentially quite a bit more data about the individual ticket buyer.

We are no doubt continuing to approach a world in which all once free space is sadly occupied with advertisements. Some will be interesting and viable for business, others will be despicable, and sinkholes for both society and corporate bottom lines. For more reading, ABC News’ Buck Wolf posted an editorial this morning on the subject entitled All the World’s an Ad.