When Production Values Compete with Interest, You Lose

When my daughter was quite young, she loved watching Mary Poppins on a VHS player. “Poppins! Mama. Poppins!” was the cry. While VHS morphed into DVDs and ultimately into Netflix and other streaming services, her love of movies has remained constant. But I remember well the first time she watched a television show with commercial breaks. She screamed. She just could not figure out why the story kept stopping.

            I have something of the same feeling as I watch “Morning Joe” at the gym. I want to scream when the same commercials come on day after day. I understand the need for the interruptions, not just the repetitive, continuous loop of the same commercials over and over again. I avoid network entertainment shows at night opting for Amazon Prime, Netflix and HBO, not only for the amazing quality of their programming, but also because, well, the fall off to repetitive-to-the-point-of-irritation-and-avoidance commercial interruptions prompt such a nose bleed.

            No. It’s not that the commercials aren’t gorgeously filmed. They are.

            It’s more that if we’re watching MSNBC each morning we’re seeing them over and over. Yes, the cost of such productions is enormous, from a financial as well as managing messaging risk perspective. Tremendous on- and off-camera talents, tremendous legal fees to bullet-proof, tremendous research costs to make sure there’s no offense: The desire is to get a lot of ‘wear’ out of each commercial. Instead of the Old School three or four iteration pool out in a campaign, it seems now there’s just the one. Over and over again. And then again.

            I just look away to reduce the grating. I’m trapped on the bike; I can’t leave. But I send my mind away. At such a moment, I think if the news can change moment by moment, why can’t the ads? We’ve got the best cameras, editing equipment, artistic talents and marketers on the planet to draw from, why can’t these 15- and 30-second productions generate enough entertainment quality to sustain interest through multiple pathways into the message?

            It is doable: The fellow who seems to understand it is the guy who sells PCMatic, right? Nearly every couple of days there’s a new message from him, sometimes extolling the virtues of his product, sometimes of his approach to building a ‘work from home’ business (gotta love that chopping tomatoes with his wife scene, right?), sometimes explaining why the world needs the equivalent of MPG way of ranking virus protection effectiveness. See. I pay attention.

            Speed to market, people. We’ll forgive the occasional hiccup or bad wardrobe choice in favor of made fresh daily. Big Pharma, I’m talking to you. And Big Cola, too. Don’t think you’re getting away with it, Big Banks and Mind-Numbingly Equivalent Big Investment Firms.


P.S.     Thank you to everyone who shared the best alternative to LensCrafters, last week. I get it: Warby Parker. Crisis solved.

The Retail Endgame: Items in this Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

One of the more fascinating aspects of being the type of person the media calls for comments on retail news is noticing what masquerades as “news.” Kmart and Sears announce they are probably no longer viable as retail entities. Ralph Lauren closes its Fifth Avenue stores, amidst scores of others. J. Crew is in trouble. Ditto Tiffany. The Limited shuts down all its stores. Yesterday’s breaking news was the trifecta: Michael Kors announces the shuttering of 125 or so more stores, Bleecker Street in New York is sports more “for lease” signs than even Soho. The LA Times forecasts 25 percent of malls will close in the next five years.

            Sometimes I think it must be like the “breaking news” during the Industrial Revolution. In that case, it would have been a different, but no less relentless call to Stop the Presses!: Steam able to provide power! Big factories able to make products more efficiently! Women and children become factory workers! People leave farms for cities. Economists note decline in home made goods. Local Smithy goes out of business. Trains replace wagon trains! There are time zones!

            In hindsight, it all seems so obvious.

            It’s foresight that matters, of course. Retailers seem to have lost their vision. Somewhere around 2000. The retail landscape has been changing for at least that long. How can this still be “news?” It’s just become obvious, irrefutable, inescapable. Probably because it’s coming at us at an escalating rate. Definitely because it shows up on a balance sheet. No more hiding in plain sight. There’s a law of physics which covers this, no doubt.

            My hypothesis: No retailer who hasn’t figured out by now how to enchant customers wherever they shop with the power and purpose of their brands will be a retailer in five years. No mall developer who isn’t seriously trying to partner with movie theatres, bowling alleys, fine dining, local cheese mongers, craft breweries and boutique chocolatiers to reimagine the purpose and power of their locations will be a mall developer in five years.

            We have seen the (retail) revolution and it is us and it is now.  Call me for further comments!