Last year, for our CTAM Summit issue, we checked in with a few ad agency gurus to find out how they would market and promote cable. We returned to the ad agency community again this year with a two-part question: As it relates to your own work, what message does cable need to communicate to the public, and what’s the best way to communicate that message? Their answers indicate that MSOs still have a lot of work to do. Jon Mandel
MediaCom U.S.
Cable needs to do a better job getting involved in its communities, says Jon Mandel, a vocal critic of cable’s marketing and advertising efforts. Broadcast stations regularly team up with advertisers at health fairs and street festivals, which Mandel insists would be winning promotions for cable operators. Cable programming has a great public identity, says the chairman of MediaCom U.S., which is among the ad agency giants, with $5.4 billion in billings last year. Operators, on the other hand, "are not viewed as anything special," Mandel says. And that’s what needs to be fixed. "I need them like I need electricity, but when the electricity breaks down, the electrical providers come immediately. With operators, you have to make an appointment and get a four-hour window. They have to show [their] value in people’s lives on a day-to-day basis and how they provide something other than just programs." If Mandel ran a system or MSO, his primary weapon in changing consumers’ perceptions would be community outreach. He’d forge alliances with advertisers and local institutions and participate in events as often as possible, thereby demonstrating his company’s social awareness—along with its new services. He’d advertise heavily for these events via print, radio and cross-channel avails. "If I’m Comcast, I not only give money to a charity, but have my employees out working the line and handing out water for the race that charity presents," he adds. MediaCom clients such as Nokia, Kmart and Shell Oil would like to collaborate with cable operators on community outreach, says Mandel. So would local car dealers, real estate and insurance agents. Mostly he’s been frustrated in his attempts to get operators involved. "There’s a tremendous opportunity here. The more you touch those communities, the better your business is." System managers also are misguided when they decline to participate in ongoing campaigns such as VH1’s Save the Music, he says. Instead of waiting for an MSO corporate directive, individual systems should get involved on their own. For instance, in the case of Save the Music, cable systems can offer music lessons to underprivileged kids. "The local system manager should make the call," Mandel says. "Stop thinking about the dollar potential in participating today, and start thinking about the dollars you won’t lose tomorrow to the telephone company by getting involved." Saul Gitlin
Kang & Lee
Saul Gitlin, EVP, strategic services and new business at Kang & Lee, the WPP Group division targeting Asian-American consumers, says cable can do a better job marketing to this ethnic group by packaging original content that relates to their cultures with product bundles. "If these services can be delivered and promoted under a value bundle, that’s a relevant attraction to this audience," says Gitlin, whose agency lists Western Union, Allstate Insurance and Sears among its clients. Asian-Americans are hungry for original content and empowering technology, he says. Cable can win over Asian-Americans—estimated at 14-16 million, according to the most recent U.S. Census data, with annual growth pegged at 3-4%—if it can position itself as the best source for content and technology. Gitlin says cable should rely primarily on ethnic newspapers, radio and websites to promote its products to Asian-Americans. Chinese newspapers distributed in Los Angeles, for instance, charge about $2,500 for a full-color page, "compared to spending six figures on one page in the Los Angeles Times," he says. If a system already has relationships with retailers like Best Buy or Circuit City, they should be expanded to feature in-store technology demonstrations in Asian languages along with English, says Gitlin. Relationships with local grocery, banking and dry cleaner associations also are critical. "Position what you offer as cutting edge and attractive," he says. "Asian-Americans want VoIP, high-speed access and DVRs. Even better, offering video on demand with the top Chinese, Korean or Indian shows could spur tremendous sales." To reach any ethnic group, Gitlin recommends ties with niche business and trade associations. "Make a modest investment in them by supporting a dinner or conference, or participate in a street fair with a booth and collateral," he says. "Stick a team of people on a corner, stay there a few days and do some guerrilla marketing. It’s another way you can show yourself off as a total solution to a special audience." Hope Fulgham
Piazza Advertising
"Variety" and "simplicity" should be cable’s buzzwords, says Piazza Advertising CEO Hope Fulgham, whose clients include Walt Disney Co., Nike, Anheuser-Busch and Chase Manhattan Bank. Cable does a good job of promoting the volume of quality programming and services available. It often falls short getting across "how easy it is to use and how [it] simplifies your life," she says. Cable should use more interactive promotions, such as website content that engages consumers, mass e-mail delivery, text messaging and interactive TV advertising. "Integrate the marketing and have things be fun for the public," she says. "A number of MSOs are now rolling out ITV services, so they should try to exploit advertising options as much as they can quickly. You can use games and other features to make the message appealing, and content on the ads can be changed far easier." Fulgham also encourages operators to run more cross-channel avails and send out more direct mail pieces. "Understand what works about each tool and campaign, as well as what doesn’t," she says. "Remember to include some cultural identity in messages aimed at different ethnic groups." Wireless devices will become an important marketing device in the next two to three years, and cable operators must be ready with strategies using that platform to promote thier services, adds Fulgham. "They will have to come to this table very quickly, or their hand will be forced by other players. These devices will become very cost-effective promotion tools because they are so widespread and handy," she says. Rudy Gaskins
Push Creative
Here’s the punchy and sweet message cable must deliver, according to Rudy Gaskins: We’re the one. "[Cable needs to say,] `Of all the different entertainment choices a consumer may have, we’re the one with the buffet of offerings you want and the benefits you’re looking for,’" says Gaskins, CEO and creative director of Push Creative, which handles advertising and promotion for clients such as American Express and MSNBC. The first step should be a public relations campaign aimed at city government, local businesses and the press. Over the course of several months a cable system should debrief them on cable’s digital and advanced services, while addressing criticism over customer service. Then a system should launch a media blitz encompassing cross-channel spots, radio, print and direct mail. He also recommends concocting a publicity stunt, on the order of Oprah Winfrey giving away cars to members of her studio audience. "You have to cause a ruckus and get out there," he says. "That Oprah move had more punch than 20 commercials running back to back on the Super Bowl." Gaskins also advises developing partnerships with cable networks, advertisers and celebrities on various campaigns to spread the cost around. Operators should also look for ways to integrate with local and even national cable programming. If Fuse could do it on an episode of The Apprentice, why can’t an operator try the same thing, he says. "That’s blatant product immersion, where you make no bones that the product is right up front on the show. That’s the kind of leadership operators should take to grow their base." The Gurus Have Spoken The four ad agency executives we consulted reached a consensus on a few points over how cable operators should market their services to consumers: Stress the difference your services make in people’s lives. Present your cable system to consumers as the place to get all the video, voice and data services they need. Be direct, simple and creative with your message. Focus on outreach. Hit the streets to showcase programming and products. Participate in events and join organizations. Set up retail and school demonstrations. Integrate public relations with marketing and promotion plans. Use your technology. Get a high-tech message out in high-tech fashion via website content, instant/text messaging, e-mails, blogs and ITV advertising.

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