DON’T [REMOVED TO PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN] CENSOR MY TV

According to “Variety,” former MPAA president Jack Valenti has proposed a multi-million dollar education plan (subscription required) to stave off congress from waging a “war against terror” on your television (ok, that’s very liberal paraphrasing).

Valenti’s goal, for the $250-300 million he anticipates the campaign will cost, is to educate parents in an effort to protect families from sexual, obscene or violent content.

Wait, did I just read that correctly? $250-300 million to “educate parents in an effort to protect families from sexual, obscene or violent content?” You’ve got to be joking, right?

Now it’s been a long time since I tried desparately to sneak in viewings of “Stripes” and “Porky’s” on HBO. I remember vividly, how I resented the hell out of the female authority figure who stood between me and my desire to see luscious females in their full frontal nude glory on the 19″ Sony in the den. She certainly didn’t need the aid of a bloated public service campaign to guide her.

About ten years ago… Single and living in Manhattan, I also recall an episode of “Beavis and Butthead” that was banned because some jackass kid burned their house down after watching Beavis play with matches.

By then, despite not being the a part of the demographic who had anything vested in censoring sexual, obscene or violent content for the benefit of America’s youth, I was of the mind that it should be the responsibility of parent to PARENT their kids, not be their friends. Sad as it may be, one doesn’t earn the right to be one’s child’s friend until such time as they have encouraged, disciplined and reared said child into responsible adulthood. Isn’t that common sense?

Regarding Mr. Valenti, let me stress that it is the opinion of this author that he genuinely trying to do a good thing to avoid a bloated and bureaucratic congress from wasting even more time and money, and worse, furthering the agenda of President George W. Bush’s crusade on our televisions.

To that end, liken it to prison rehabilitation… it doesn’t work. That the money would be better spent on planned parenthood (or a home lobotomy kit).

DON’T [REMOVED TO PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN] CENSOR MY TV

According to “Variety,” former MPAA president Jack Valenti has proposed a multi-million dollar education plan (subscription required) to stave off congress from waging a “war against terror” on your television (ok, that’s very liberal paraphrasing).

Valenti’s goal, for the $250-300 million he anticipates the campaign will cost, is to educate parents in an effort to protect families from sexual, obscene or violent content.

Wait, did I just read that correctly? $250-300 million to “educate parents in an effort to protect families from sexual, obscene or violent content?” You’ve got to be joking, right?

Now it’s been a long time since I tried desparately to sneak in a viewing of “Stripes” and “Porky’s” on HBO. I remember vividly, how I resented the hell out of the female authority figure who stood between me and my desire to see lucious females in full frontal nude glory on the 19″ Sony in the den. She certainly didn’t need the aid of a bloated public service campaign to guide her.

About ten years ago… Single and living in Manhattan, I also recall an episode of “Beavis and Butthead” that was banned because some jackass kid burned their house down after watching Beavis play with matches.

By then, despite not being the a part of the demographic who had anything vested in censoring sexual, obscene or violent content for the benefit of America’s youth, I was of the mind that it should be the responsibility of parent to PARENT their kids, not be their friends. Sad as it may be, one doesn’t earn the right to be one’s child’s friend until such time as they have encouraged, disciplined and reared said child into responsible adulthood. Isn’t that common sense?

Regarding Mr. Valenti, let me stress that it is the opinion of this author that he genuinely trying to do a good thing to avoid a bloated and bureaucratic congress from wasting even more time and money, and worse, furthering the agenda of President George W. Bush’s crusade on our televisions.

To that end, liken it to prison rehabilitation… it doesn’t work. That the money would be better spent on planned parenthood (or a home lobotomy kit).

THE FUTURE OF MUSIC

I was planning on writing a lengthy analysis of the changing landscape of the consumer music business with the explosive growth of Apple’s iTunes, of which I am a huge fan, and some others in the online music space. In thinking it through though, I think this photograph I took is living proof that “a picture is worth 1000 words…”

future_of_music.jpg

WHY DOES CREATIVITY ALWAYS SEEM TO SUFFER?

Lately it seems that in the end creativity seems to always get the short end of the stick.

Disney and Pixar had a much publicized falling out a few months ago (which at least according to the spin of the media was largely Disney driven). Clearly this seems odd on the heels of “Finding Nemo” being the biggest single moneymaker at both the box office and on DVD for the studio.

This week, Reuters reported that Disney and Miramax are currently “negotiating” their relationship (Miramax Chiefs, Disney Debate Control, Money ). This would seem to defy conventional logic. Miramax is a consistent hit generator (and gets regular critical acclaim for their pictures — not a common combination in Hollywood). With Disney in a position to re-up the deal for another 4 years, why do they feel that they are also in the position to renegotiate the deal? Wouldn’t their continued success suggest that Miramax holds pretty much all the cards? Remember “Chicago” at the box office? How about at the Oscars?

But this isn’t meant to be a criticism of Disney…

Also this week, Variety ran a story about the $7 billion videogame industry and the “growing pains” that the bigger companies (EA, VU, THQ) are facing due to escalating production costs (what 3 years ago was ~$1,000,000 can now run as high as $15,000,000) and demands on Wall Street. The result is that the companies are trying to control the creative development shops by buying them up and by producing primarily franchise and sequel based product to “guarantee” audiences.

It’s important to understand that Hollywood and the videogame industry have fairly different businesses despite their surface similarities:

Hollywood has things like second-run, ancillary sales, etc, the videogame industry doesn’t. Talent (most notably actors) is willing/forced to promote the hell out of Hollywood projects because of their contracts and careers.

The videogame industry is still viewed by consumers more as a consumer product company than as a part of the entertainment business, despite increasing demands for entertainment in the actual product.

Of course the insanely high marketing costs are also a factor in all of this too. So what should Hollywood and the videogame industry do? For starters:

Hollywood

In terms of production, who’s to say that a dysfunctional system that makes ~$6 billion annually should change? Well, for starters, I am. It’s bad enough that the industry feeds on itself and turns out so much uninteresting and unwatchable television and movies these days instead of harboring and nurturing writing and directing talent. It seems that the current trend is worse though… where’s the justification in turning on your crown jewel(s)? It seems that some folks in ivory towers need to be reminded that very little good can come from biting the hand that feeds you.

In terms of marketing, stop paying people to come up with silly schemes like plastering movie logos on everything in site that isn’t even loosely related to the movie. Instead, see yesterday’s article The Changing Landscape of Advertising… and Pizza .

The videogame industry

Regarding production, considering how little cache “a list” actors bring to titles historically and above, spend those dollars on good concepts and stories. Harken back to the excitement of the early days of videogames. Who can forget the simple but powerful emotions brought on by the some of the arcade classics like “Space Invaders” and “Donkey Kong.” Or the original “Zork” text adventures… Don’t forget the “Ultima” trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m not looking forward to the next “Grand Theft” title, but that’s, sadly, become the exception to the rule.

Regarding marketing, spend more time working the core audiences and less time trying to mass market. For one thing, it’s likely to be as, if not more, effective… for another, it’s a fraction of the cost. There are companies that specialize in things like alternative, street and guerilla marketing. For starters, take $100,000 of that multi-million dollar budget and experiment a little to see what works. There’s only upside, because the money’s already being spent.

THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF ADVERTISING… AND PIZZA

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.