Want some free marketing advice? We thought we’d ask some big-deal folks what they’d suggest cable marketers do… By Simon Applebaum As cable officials hunker down in Boston this week to brainstorm marketing strategy at the annual CTAM Summit, we thought we’d give them a little something to think about. CableWORLD contacted four ad agency executives and asked them to answer a simple question: How would you market cable? Some of their answers may surprise you, such as the one from Carat Digital’s Mitch Oscar, who suggested that MSOs’ marketing messages aren’t focused enough. As Oscar sees it, operators are confusing the public by touting so many different services. Of course, some of the ad agency executives’ answers aren’t surprising at all: Most scolded cable operators for not paying enough attention to customer service. Cable companies and advertising agencies operate under a delivery environment: Operators deliver a variety of services to the public; agencies deliver a variety of messages to the public—and income from those messages supports many cable services. Two executives contacted by CableWORLD come from companies considered titans in the field: Carat, whose North American and Latin American billings alone for 2003 passed $4.8 billion, and Mindshare. The others work for agencies focused on specialized audiences, including African-American, Latino and gay/lesbian. Kathy Crawford
Mindshare
There’s an impression out there that DBS cares more about people than the cable folks, says Mindshare local broadcast president Kathy Crawford. "The operators need to realize that the public needs a warm and fuzzy feeling about their business and that they care. Operators are losing customers right and left because satellite makes them feel good." To that end, Crawford suggests that MSOs would have better success signing new subscribers if they adopt one of Fox News Channel commentator Bill O’Reilly’s mantras: "The spin stops here because we’re looking out for you." As much as Crawford believes cable operators really do look out for their customers through the programming and advanced services they offer, she believes most of the public sees things differently. Cable can win the trust of these potential subscribers by marketing its high-tech arsenal more effectively. "I’d have the people who have PVRs and digital and VOD and Internet access talk to me about what they want to see," then create campaigns that show how cable operators provide that content, she says. Another suggestion: Program a basic channel highlighting new shows and tech options, including VOD and HDTV, and develop cross-channel promos that invite subscribers to watch that channel. A final bit of advice from Mindshare, which is a giant in the advertising agency world with a client base that includes American Express, Domino’s Pizza, Unilever and Burger King: Don’t ignore your website, which is a great launchpad for show promotion, tech news and new subscriber sign-ups. Instead of direct mail to pinpoint specific audiences, "let’s use the Internet to zero in on the people who would pay the cable bill," Crawford says. Howard Buford
Prime Access
It all begins with customer service. All the great new products cable offers won’t mean anything unless cable fixes its customer service problems, says Howard Buford, president and CEO of New York-based ad agency Prime Access. "The quality and responsiveness of service an operator gives has a huge impact on the industry’s image," he says. "They must stress reliability." Buford, who creates advertising campaigns for the African-American, Latino and gay/lesbian communities, believes these markets would be particularly receptive to the marketing of cable’s new services. "Cable must [show] that the new services carry an end benefit—a way for their kids to achieve and get their slice of the American pie." That means pitching service bundles widely among ethnic and gay/lesbian neighborhoods, using both direct mail and event outreach. Buford also says operators should create campaigns to let existing subscribers know they are valued. "Don’t let them get disgruntled when they see all the discounts or special rewards offered to new subs," he says. Cable operators should focus on two of their strongest selling points, Buford says. One is the variety of content. The other is the breadth of technology, including VOD and Web access. Ethnic and gay/lesbian citizens "want content that reflects who they are and how they live their lives," he says. "Showtime has taken advantage of that with a content strategy aimed at what these audiences look for," resulting in Soul Food, Queer as Folk, The L Word and other targeted dramas. "One characteristic of African-Americans is that they want instant gratification. They appreciate VOD and the higher speed of cable modem access." Prime Access works on campaigns aimed at any or all of those communities. The company reaped $28 million in billings last year and is on track for more in 2004, with such clients as JP Morgan Chase, Merck and Ford Motor Co. Mitch Oscar
Carat Digital
Cable subscribers should love their providers, especially considering the amount of content they provide and the number of ways to view it. But Mitch Oscar, EVP of Carat’s digital unit, says that the ways operators promote their wares far too often leaves folks sour. Take the PVR. "Once you have it, you’re in love with it," Oscar says. "But even with cable systems offering it, there’s only a few million users. Very few know what a PVR is or the benefits of having one. Same with VOD, digital, HDTV, telephony and Internet access." Oscar, who joined Carat from Universal McCann last fall, offers this advice to cable operators looking to focus their messages: Keep it simple. Saturate the public with campaigns promoting benefits and quality customer service. "The first thing I would do is hire an ad agency that understands my business and my new technology along with doing creative promotions," Oscar says. "Then I’d present clear, simple, dollar-and-cents information to the consumer that explains the services and gets people curious. Make the message colorless and bridge all nationalities." MSOs should better utilize cross-channel spots, which offer the best promotional mileage. They also should decrease their reliance on overly complicated bundled packages. "Too many packages are overwhelming," he says. "Get something simple out, then work to hook the customer." He points to Cablevision as the model for his perfect bundle—digital/interactive/VOD channels (iO) the opening course. Add cable modems (Optimum Online) and VoIP (Optimum Voice), and the mix is "a terrific, sticky, bundled bill of fare consumers will enjoy, along with bundled discounts," Oscar says. "That’s a compelling, straightforward proposition" DBS can’t match. Silvia Malo
Reynardus & Moya Advertising
A specialist in Spanish-language advertising campaigns, Reynardus & Moya senior account director Silvia Malo says cable operators should focus on their balance of providing quality product and quality customer care. Therein lies the rub. Often, Latinos "expect quality customer service in Spanish, and it doesn’t happen," she says. "Sometimes there’s a disconnect between the message that’s offered and the reality. There’s a service expectation created that’s not met." Counterattacking that perception would be the first priority of Malo’s marketing effort. "My strategy would be consistent with the operator’s general marketing message. Latinos aren’t a ghetto and don’t want to be in one. They want to be part of the nation’s culture while retaining their own cultural identity. I’d be out to create an interpretation of that message that’s relevant and realistic," she says. "The interpretation: Cable serves as a lifeline connected to someone’s homeland and a window to the mainstream." Radio heads Malo’s list of avenues to deliver the message. Spanish-language stations "are a form of cultural expression and identity," she says. "Talk shows on those stations build an intimate audience relationship." Radio also can figure into special events or storefront appearances, where the station provides music and personalities or is aboard as sponsor. Outdoor promotions using phone booths, bus stops or subway car signage is another effective tool Malo likes using, followed by direct mail and direct-response TV. Cablevision and Time Warner Cable’s New York metro operations use Reynardus for Spanish-language campaigns covering digital tiers, high-speed Internet access and PVR/DVR products. Advertising among Latinos is Reynardus’ forte, turning up $24 million in billings last year from such clients as Schering-Plough and ITT.

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