Category Archives: Paid Media

Television is still the King

A lot has been written about how  digital media has numbered the days of more “traditional” news outlets, such as newspapers and television. A report out today from Gallup would tend to indicate, as Mark Twain would say, the demise of television has been greatly exaggerated.

Gallup reports today that television still dominates as American’s first choice for news. Fully 55% of Americans get their news about current events from television, followed by 21% from the internet. While digital news has swamped newspapers (only 9% indicate newspapers as their primary source), it has not displaced television.

I’m old enough to remember the news about crazy men like Ted Turner, who had a vision of 24/7 information delivery via cable channels. At that time, Americans got their news primarily from newspapers and the three large networks, ABC, CBS and NBC. The reaction Turner received varied between “give it a year” and projections of his imminent bankruptcy. Within a few years, that scorn had changed to clarion calls that the Big Three broadcast channels were staring at extinction. Neither extreme proved to be true.

What happened was the delivery channels were split, with news consumers getting more options. The pie, in other words, was merely split into smaller pieces. The same is now happening with the advent of digital media and the internet.

Yes, an increasing number of people are looking to digital for news. Yet television still dominates the market. Newspapers have taken a distinct hit in their market share, but I believe they’ve hit bottom and with aggressive moves into the digital space will find their balance. The pie has merely been cut into smaller slices yet again.

For our clients, it’s important to be everywhere: television, radio, print and internet. When we need to drive the news, we do it in a coordinated fashion. This not only ensures we hit our audiences, but gives us repetition in news cycles. There is no “silver bullet”…you have to be everywhere your audience is looking.

Television is a unique medium. It combines important moving visuals with delivery by news people you (hopefully) trust. If you don’t trust that host, there are hundreds of other options. It allows a vast amount of programming and entertainment options due to its 24/7 nature and bandwidth. And among other news outlets, it is uniquely situated to augment itself in the digital space.

Whether television remains at the top of the news business is yet to be seen. My money says it will.

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Filed under Legislative Affairs, Paid Media, Public Affaris, Uncategorized

The Steve King I Know…

I noted with interest an online article from today’s Des Moines Register regarding Congressman Steve King and his impending decision regarding a race for the US Senate.

Much of my political career has been to help position candidates so that in the hustle and bustle of a campaign, voters can get to know the real essence of who they are as people. Behind the sound bites, behind the policy pronouncements…who are these people? Are they candidates that reflect well on us and whom we can trust to make sometimes momentous decisions on our behalf?

Today’s article on Congressman King by my friend Bill Petroski does just that. Bill is a great writer, experienced and quick on the draw. He can get to the nerve center of an issue quickly and he did so in this article.

Congressman King shows that he is weighing this seriously. He’s a man who built his construction business with the strength of his hands, the sweat of his brow and sheer will. He uses a construction analogy to show exactly how methodically he’s going about his assessment. Regardless of his ultimate decision, his methodology speaks very well of his character and his decision making.

The public perception of candidates often varies greatly with their private side. I’ve seen this over and over and it’s the fundamental challenge presented to communication and media assistants.

There is a wide gap between how Congressman King is portrayed by many partisans and members of the media, and the man I’ve gotten to know.

I’ve had the good fortune to work with Congressman King in the Iowa Senate and on his congressional campaigns. He’s a man of deep convictions, big ideas and an unbridled source of pride in all things Iowa. He is a son of Iowa, a man who knows all good things come from the land and the people of Iowa.

I’ve also had even more fun with Congressman King in other settings, like his annual pheasant hunt. There is perhaps no better place to get to know a man than standing shoulder to shoulder in a hunting stand for several hours. Far from the trappings of office and with your boots planted firmly in Iowa’s abundant soil, you can measure each other pretty quickly. I held my own in those stands, but I will always take a back seat to Congressman King’s quick eye and more accurate aim.

Congressman King will make his decision in due time, after weighing all the facts presented to him. No matter what he decides, he’ll be putting his constituents, his issues and his state first. He’s been a great Congressman, he would be an outstanding US Senator and I’ll be following his decision closely.

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Filed under Media Bias, Paid Media, Public Affaris

Microsoft: Macro Negative

You may have seen the recent “attack ads” against Google’s popular Gmail application. The ads, paid for by Microsoft, smack of the take-no-prisoners negative campaign advertisements we have come to expect in our presidential and congressional campaigns.

But not very often do we see such negative ads in corporate advertising campaigns.

Mark Penn, one of the political wunderkinds behind President Bill Clinton, has been hired as a full time campaign adviser to Microsoft. He is tasked with bringing his advertising and messaging prowess to the ongoing technology market-share battle between Microsoft and Google.

One observer of the tech industry pegged it well when he reacted to the news of Microsoft’s campaign:

Negative campaigns like the “Scroogled” ads can work well, as every seasoned politician will likely tell you, but the potential backlash makes them a risky proposition. Microsoft’s marketing team clearly believes that the benefits outweigh the risks, but even though the campaign got plenty of media pickup, I doubt that it will get people to switch. Instead, it makes Microsoft look petty, desperate and overly aggressive.

 I know from personal experience that negative campaigning works…to drive up your opponent’s negatives. But unless you’re also following that negative messaging with some positive messaging, as to why you’re better, it’s ultimately money thrown into the wind. And complicating that conundrum is that if your messaging doesn’t fit into what consumers (voters) think of the product, the reality you’re trying to peddle won’t be matched by their reality.

To wit: Mitt Romney and the Republican SuperPACs spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars telling Americans why President Obama was not worthy of a second term. But the reality they were peddling didn’t match how people actually viewed the President. In short, they were barking up the wrong tree, and probably in the wrong forest to boot.

I predict the same result will befall Microsoft and its negative campaign against Google. Microsoft’s products are somewhat newer than the primitive tools used by early Neanderthals. But not much. Google’s products are fresh, always evolving, fun, and integrated. And more importantly, their products are widely accepted and loved.

So, good luck with the Scroogled campaign, Mark. I might remind you that you got President Clinton to 43% on the ballot in 1992, and 49.2% in 1996.

And by the way, I’ve got a good list of potential names for the response campaign against Microsoft. But this is a family blog, so I’ll keep it clean.

Badda Bing, badda boom.

Full disclosure, PolicyWorks is proud to have Google as a client.

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Filed under Paid Media, Public Affaris, Reputation Management

America’s Second Half

“This country can’t be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do, the world’s gonna hear the roar of our engines. Yeah, it’s halftime, America. And our second half is about to begin.”

Clint Eastwood, “Halftime in America”

Those words, uttered by an American icon, cut through the hoopla of the Super Bowl last Sunday. More importantly, they cut right through the political chatter of an election year. The impact of this one advertisement cannot be understated.

An estimated audience of 110 million watched Sunday’s Super Bowl. An additional 4 million viewers have watched the two minute advertisement since Sunday. Immediately, the message was praised from the Left and panned from the Right. The Obama Administration claimed it was vindication for the auto bailout program, which started under President Bush and concluded under President Obama’s watch. The right challenged the ad, focusing on the fact that it was “not even shot in Detroit” and had too heavy of a political message.

Both are missing the point.

I watched the ad on Sunday as it came on in spectacular high definition. Within seconds, I recognized the voice, and the unmistakable gait of Clint Eastwood. I was mesmerized by the visuals, the lack of polluting screen graphics, the use of black and white, color and soft focus, and the solemnity of the subjects. But what really captured me was the message.

I hung on every word. When Eastwood appeared on screen at the close, I knew it would be powerful. He didn’t disappoint.

What Eastwood did in two minutes was to reset years of divisive political discourse in this country. He didn’t endorse the bailout of the auto industry. In fact, he’s on record as having opposed it. He didn’t lay blame for America’s problems with any one political party; he rose above it.

He cut right through the blather, and hit the very emotional nerve of what makes America so unique: we are, in our core, an optimistic people. We face challenges, large and small, with determination and grit. When we’re kicked down in the dirt, we get back up. We pull together, get the job done and then move on. We face our challenges and achieve our goals because we have the optimism to know it’s possible. And we know it’s possible, because we’ve done it for the last 236 years.

Clint Eastwood may not ever earn an award for his two minute commercial during the Super Bowl, but in my humble opinion, he should. He is a man who has a unique grasp of what makes America so unique. He had the courage to step up and say it in his own words, and to deliver them as only he could.

I’m not concerned that Clint Eastwood will be rattled by the debate raging around his commercial. In fact, I’d predict, he’d tell critics to “go ahead, make my day.”

In Sunday’s two minutes, and the two days since, he has spoken directly to hundreds of millions of Americans. More importantly, he has spoken directly to the unique emotion that moves us as Americans.

I’d say he’s made our day.

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