Friday, August 21, 2015

Can Apple Ever Exceed Market Expectations?

It seems that the big worry on Apple centers strictly on its iPhone product.  Its growth, year over year, is more important than any other of its products, whether it is the Mac, iPad, or even the Apple Watch.  Financially, Apple may be doing quite well but market sentiment seems to be that it is a one product company that lives or dies on sales of its iPhone.  Still the stock market is a bit like gambling, high on expected short term outcomes, low on long term strategy.

Still, while Apple has been seen as strictly a technology company, its competitors seem to do more diversification.  We are already expecting a news conference to be announced to tell us about next generation iPhones, Apple Watches, Apple TV boxes, and more.  It's iTunes and App Store and its new Apple Music subscription service continues to grow, adding more and more revenue and profit to the bottom line.  But these are all technology platforms.

It is Apple's future plans that intrigue a number of us.  Will Apple create a self driving car or are they better suited to partner with a current company like a Tesla?  Should Apple invest in content creation and consider buying a media company.  A CBS Broadcasting Network or assortment of cable networks like Viacom and Scripps might be a smart way to diversify into content.  Is content distribution in their grasp and could buying Netflix or Hulu a means to be in the OTT space?  Or does Apple see itself as the center of IoT (The Internet of Things) and it is time to invest and partner with major appliance manufacturers or HVAC manufacturers like Honeywell to make Apple the centerpiece of the connected home. 

Time may be ripe for Apple to declare a new strategic direction to generate a buzz and declare a commitment to the future. No doubt Apple iPhone growth must slow; the Apple Watch may not be enough to satisfy the market.  It may be the right time to shake up the world again. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Content Verse Distribution Battle Continues

The proverbial chicken verse egg is very much in play when it comes to the world of media and the question of which is more important, distribution verse content.  Today, the stock market seems to think less of content creators as those media companies, from Disney to Fox to Viacom have all suffered due to cord cutting.  For the moment, distribution, or to be more exact, the distribution disruptors, are leading the current battle.  The rise of Netflix and Hulu and Amazon, the threat of Apple entering the content subscription business, and increased usage of devices like Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, and other OTT boxes are threatening the cable license fee model.  Consumers still want content to watch; they just don't want to pay much for it.

And so low cost distribution platforms provide content choices for less.  A Netflix subscription for under $10 a month.  An HBO subscription WITHOUT a cable subscription, Amazon Prime with free shipping and tons of content to watch.  All cost less than an annual cable subscription.  And if video content companies are getting less revenues, than profits will only drop, despite additional cost cutting. 

Of course the content v. distribution model is essentially a balancing act, one that will find a new middle ground as some cable channels fall away and we find clearer programming segments.  We no longer watch channels, we watch shows and that also affects our search efforts.  Channel surfing has lessened as broadband enables us to search specific attributes to find shows and movies to watch.  From a certain actor or actress to key word search, the need to keep pushing channel up or down is no longer necessary, especially as content goes online. 

Content is ultimately king in my book; but for the moment, broadband distribution exclusivity may be driving the bus for the moment. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Mobile Video Ads Work Better

What is the last display ad you recall seeing?  Frankly, my eyes gloss over most display ads; they are more a nuisance than informative, clogging up the screen.  Headers, verticals, even overlays clog our screens but may not be very successful.  Well, a research report from BI Intelligence says that video advertising is the best future for mobile and desktop screens. And that trend is continuing to grow. 

As you scroll down your Facebook or other feeds, you may notice that videos start to play automatically.  And they have been successful.  "In-stream video ads, including ads that play at the start, during, and after  video content, yielded click-through rates (CTRs) that were 18x higher than HTML5 banner ad units in February 2015, according to Google's Rich Media Gallery. "

Of course prices for video ads are higher than static ones, but if they deliver more ROI, then it is clearly a better value.  Will display ads go away completely, doubtful.  But an integrated ad buy that utilizes both strategies on a page certainly should get more notice, better brand engagement, and hopefully more click throughs. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Is this Commercial A Hit Or A Miss

While I have listed some commercials that I find truly inane to the point of channel turning, others make me scratch my head and ask if the execution of the commercial exceeded any brand metrics. Do we remember the product, does it create interest, does it break through the clutter, is it memorable for the brand, and might it drive sales growth? 

Lately, I have seen the commercial for the Infinity QX60.  No, don't know it, how about if I say the one that parodies the Vacation movie with Christie Brinkley.  And that for me is the disconnect.  For a long while, I thought it was a commercial for the Ed Helm reboot of Vacation, but it is not.    It certainly reaches an audience that knows the original Vacation brand and remembers when Christie Brinkley was the one driving the red convertible.  Now she is the mom in the SUV but the commercial is not selling the red convertible.  Yikes, that car looked more interesting.  Of course the family owner might notice that the QX60 has a third row, an important feature for households needing 7 car seats.  Few other features though are mentioned. 

Is the spot memorable.  Heck, Christie Brinkley looks great and the Vacation movie brings back fond memories of car road trips.  But I wonder if the Infinity car brand gets lost in the spot.  By the way, I never saw the new version  of Vacation so I have no idea if Infinity is the car used in the new movie. Here is the spot for your enjoyment.

As to the driver of the Infinity QX60, a little trivia.  He is played by actor Ethan Embry who played the role of Clark' s (Chevy Chase) son Rusty in the original film. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

But I Like To Drive

With the exception of stop and go traffic jams, I like to drive.  A rite of passage enjoyed by every teenager as they first get their learners permit and then their drivers license.  And while there are risks and dangers, operating a car can be a very freeing experience.  Over the years, there have been many advancements in driving including better materials, air bags, more advanced braking systems all to save lives.  And there are stupid drivers who still text and drive, can't stay in their lane, or generally make bad driving decisions. 

Lately, there have been a number of efforts to take drivers out of the car.  Google has been working on such a system and Tesla is developing one too.  Now comes word that Apple may be another entrant in the self-driving car.  So is there a demand for such a vehicle?  Perhaps.  A late night with too much to drink, turn on the auto pilot and let the car get you home.  Your children need to be picked up at a friend's house.  Send the car to the address to retrieve them and bring them home.  Its late at night and you risk falling asleep at the wheel; turn on the auto pilot and let the car take over.

Some day this could all be a reality.  It could also be a potential nightmare for auto insurance companies. Was someone driving at the time of the accident, does auto-pilot make insurance costs go down?  Can we trust that an auto pilot car can't be hacked and that someone could potentially cause our car to make a deadly turn?  The evolution of self driving car may take decades to truly achieve or it may be a fairy tale.  For cars driven by computers with logical decisions to compute speed, turning radius, road conditions, etc. to exist on streets along side irrational human drivers that make illogical decisions may not work.  Accidents will still occur.  Safety must still be the number one focus to assure that any accident allows the passengers inside to survive with minimal injury. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

What's Next For Apple OTT

Apple supposedly has plans to announce iPhone updates, newer iPads and perhaps a new Apple TV box, but one thing that may not be mentioned is a new OTT service.  Per Bloomberg, Apple has not been able to close enough license fee deals with content creators to create its own low cost bundle of linear and on demand channels.   Unlike the creation of a music subscription service, building a video subscription service has been a much bigger problem for Apple. 

The planned event date is September 9 so Apple still has a month to try and cobble some deals together for their big day.  It is always possible that last minute negotiations could garner a big deal.  But if not, I have an idea.  With all its free cash, its technical expertise, its well regarded management, should Apple consider buying a distribution platform.  Hello Dish Network and its Sling TV service, its Apple and I may have a deal for you. Hello Sony, its Apple, would you sell us Playstation Vue; Hello Netflix, its Apple, can we talk?  If Apple can't build it from scratch, buy one and grow it.  Isn't that the strategy your using with Beats to build out your Apple Music subscription. 

If that doesn't work, go after some cable networks.  Hello AMC, good morning Scripps, welcome Viacom.  Maybe Apple should start buying ans consolidating its own group of networks to gain some leverage over other content companies.  A solution that solves their problem and an opportunity to diversify into digital content that runs their infrastructure of products.  If any company has the financial resources to do it, it is Apple. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Can You Tell Me How To Get, How To Get To HBO

Kids matter. Netflix has been making sure it has its share of kid programming, from zero on through teenager to adult to assure that the whole family gains satisfaction from its subscription to their service.  Shows like Arthur, Magic School Bus, Curious George and others are all meant to attract the youngest audience and their parents.  And it seems HBO is following a similar strategy. It's latest move, acquiring first run content for Sesame Street, the popular pre-adolescent series that has been appearing on PBS. 

Per the NY Times, "After nine months of programming exclusively on HBO, the shows also will be available free on PBS, its home for the last 45 years."  This financial investment is certainly good news for Sesame Workshop.  How useful it is to HBO and what other children programming it starts to acquire will demonstrate how serious they are to get into this space.  But given how streaming has become more important to the future of HBO and how quickly children are embracing mobile video, it is the kind of content that HBO needs to stay competitive with Netflix. 

Don't be surprised to watch Showtime and Starz make their own investments into children's programming too.  They have traditionally used a follower strategy against HBO.  Content is king and HBO wants to compete effectively in the mobile market against Netflix. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

AT&T and DirecTv Offer The Double Play

Now that AT&T and DirecTv have combined into the largest cable operator in the US, it's time for marketing to push the synergies.  The latest offer is to current DirecTv customers to switch their cellular provider to AT&T Wireless for huge cost savings.  According to Multichannel, a customer could save $500 per line (A $300 credit to switch plus a $200 credit toward a new phone).  A family of four could find themselves saving $2,000 by switching. 

In another move, customers that are unable to purchase DirecTv, because of their apartment complex or inability to obtain the signal, could be eligible to order the NFL Sunday Ticket from AT&T.  Per FierceCable, "Live streaming Sunday Ticket packages start at $50 a month for four months and are accessible via computers, tablets, smartphones or connected devices (Xbox One/Xbox 360, Windows 10, Sony PS3/PS4, Roku and Chromecast)." WOW, a standalone NFL package; sign me up!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Another Inane Commercial To Ponder

Where are the smart commercials, the ones that make you laugh or cry or just think, the ones that solve a real problem or create aspirations.  But what bugs me most are commercials that frankly don't make sense, where the solution is not sold by the action in the ad.

Another case in point, an ad for TD Bank.  While some of their ads have been done extremely well, this one makes no sense.  In it, the store owner tells us that he needs to make his daily end of day deposit.  First, that he would rather leave a possible sale to tend to his banking would never happen.  His business relies on customers that spend money and he is willing to end that relationship to make his day's deposit.  Second, that he is willing to risk life and limb jumping through a plate glass window, breaking a car windshield, run through street traffic, all to make his deposit before the bank closes.  But then he tells us that he is happy because the bank stays open later to accommodate him and his store hours.  WAIT!  You just risked your life to get to the bank in time and you didn't have to.  Sure, it is meant to be humorous but the premise is inane.  Ideally, the benefit of banking at TD Bank is that you didn't have to leave a customer early or risk your life to do your banking.  Shouldn't his story be illustrated by another store owner that faces the same challenge only to find their bank door locked, while he calmly closes his business and walks to the bank and is greeted warmly inside. Just sating.  If you haven't seen this ad, here it is:

What commercials do you find make no sense or  don't work for you?  Let me know.