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More football is no answer

Advertisers would be better served by hearing new ideas from NBC and Turner Broadcasting, the losers in last month's National Football League bidding wars, than they are by the revival of an old one: starting a new football league that would take on the NFL.

The talk about fighting football with more football deserves notice because of who is doing the talking, of course: NBC parent General Electric Co. and Turner parent Time Warner certainly have the resources to start a league, and Ted Turner has always relished fighting the status quo. But what will advertisers or, more importantly, viewers find attractive in a new league that is just a pale imitation of the NFL product?

Program and sales managers at NBC's local stations and Turner Broadcasting's TNT and TBS networks, staring at their first fall without the NFL, no doubt need some cheering up. But hosting a me-too football league is not the tonic for what ails them.

Unless Ted Turner, Bob Wright and company can come up with a football league that is a real departure from the NFL mold, why do it? It would be better to nurture a new sports franchise with real potential for the future, or develop new non-sports programming genres for male viewers. There are no guarantees here, but certainly more upside potential than minor league football offers.

And advertisers, facing NFL sticker shock for some time to come, certainly should reward programmers that offer promising innovations.

A wiser P&G

When procter & gamble co. talks, the industry listens. Or so goes the conventional wisdom in the marketing world, where P&G is the fattest gorilla of them all.

Well, the new-media world has once again defied conventional wisdom.

Nearly two years ago (14 new-media years), P&G stunned the fledgling Internet economy by boldly announcing it would pay for online ads based on the number of users who clicked on banner ads to visit P&G sites -- not on the number of users who simply saw the ads. Most sites reviled this "click-through" model since it placed no value on banner impressions. It was as if P&G had declared to magazine sales reps that it would pay for magazine space based on the number of readers who called for more information on the advertised product and not on the number of readers who saw a given print ad.

We said then in this space that P&G was right to demand interactivity from the Web, but that its click-through plan "isn't the answer."

Still, because of P&G's size and clout, many Web sellers feared the click-through model would become the industry standard. They responded with research proving the value of impressions and showing the low click-through rates for banner ads. They also took up the chant of "beyond the banner," aiming to develop more creative solutions to this new marketing challenge.

P&G's model never did catch on, and the package-goods giant is now negotiating deals that assign value to elements other than click-through. Its change of heart is testament to the unfolding power of the Internet economy and the flexibility needed to adapt to the changes sweeping the media world.

The best models for the Internet have yet to be developed. When they are, it will be because buyers and sellers worked closely to create a blueprint for success -- not because a giant of the traditional media world used its power to impose standards.

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