Archive for category Marketing

Probst Tell Survivor Fans: TiVo Doesn’t Help Our Ratings

Over the years, I’ve had more than one love affair with a TV show, but no matter how much I’ve enjoyed epic hits like 24, Alias or Joey Grecco’s Cheaters, none of them have been able to generate the level of excitement that I feel when I watch Survivor. I’m not sure if it’s the Machiavellian nature of the show or simply being able to watch an assortment of characters who are so wacky that they end up making Gilligan Island look like the Love Boat, but I love the show so much, that I even organized a home version of the game with my family over the holidays (I ended up getting voted out 2nd for trying to emulate Russell Hantz’s bulldog strategy)

Because it is the number #1 show on my Season Pass priority list, you would think that I would never miss an episode, but every year, Survivor changes the name of their show just a little bit, so that DVR subscribers have to resubscribe to each new season. I’ve gone as far as sending angry emails to the Tribune company (the supplier of TiVo’s guide data), but to no avail.

While this may or may not be hurting Survivor’s DVR ratings, the fact that the producers of the show haven’t noticed has always baffled me. It would be like me changing my RSS feed every six months, so that only my superfans could easily follow my blog. Unless you like languishing in obscurity, this isn’t a very good strategy for retaining an audience or capturing people’s attention.

Recently, Jeff Probst, the host of Survivor, launched a blog to promote the show and other charitable causes that he cares about. On his site, he solicits questions from fans and answers the more common ones. While all tidbits about the show caught my attention, one particular answer jumped out at me. While answering the question of how long will Survivor continue to run, Probst says that the survival of Survivor is dependent upon live viewers because “TiVo doesn’t help our ratings.”

Now Jeff Probst certainly isn’t the first one to appeal to their fans to ditch the DVR, but I think that his pleas are at least a little bit misguided. I’m not sure whether it’s because the producers of the show don’t care about the DVR ratings or the advertisers themselves, but either way I think that there is a lot more value to a DVR viewer then his answer would suggest.

Over the years, I may have fast forwarded my way through more than one commercial break, but I haven’t been able to avoid the product placements that are embedded in the show. I don’t know whether or not the show makes more money from these ads, but I would suspect that they do.

Whether it’s Sears demonstrating the utility of their Craftsmen line of tools or Sprint demonstrating how you can keep in touch with loved ones on their new fancy cell phones, throughout a season there are many times where branding creeps into the show. While some may find this an annoyance, I actually enjoy this type of advertainment and it undoubtedly makes me more willing to spend my money on a brand.

During 2002, 24 introduced several cars during their program and I can tell you with 100% certainty that seeing those cars zip around in that show is what made me seek the out and ultimately buy my Thunderbird. When was the last time anyone could say the same thing about a car commercial?

Furthermore, even though I TiVo the show to watch later, because the program always leaves me wanting more, it drives me to the CBS website where you can view all kinds of clips and interviews that don’t make it to television. Unlike viewers who are tuning into the show online instead of live or on DVR, these clips are additive and include lots of spammy pre-roll ads that I wouldn’t put up with if I didn’t stay excited about the show.

It could be that Survivor is so good that they don’t need to rollover their DVR viewers every season, but by ignoring this opportunity, they are losing the ability to turn their more passive fans into passionate ones. With DVR penetration now exceeding 40% of all viewers, this kind of backwards thinking will ultimately hurt them and the show’s long term chances. So while I can appreciate that a live viewer may be worth more money to the show, I’m going to continue to time shift it, so that advertisers can learn how much more valuable it is to capture my heart for 44 minutes, then it is to hold my attention hostage for 60.

The Next Big Big Thing In Advertising

Clear Channel

I managed to get stuck in traffic during the middle of the day today and had the opportunity to listen to old people talk radio while I waited. There was some cranky guy on who was clearly worried about his own job in media. During the program he bemoaned Facebook’s $50 billion valuation, the demise of newspaper circulations and the end of the good old days when we used to have to pay travel agents $100′s of dollars to buy tickets for us.

Even though I didn’t agree with his bleak sentiments, it did make me reflect on how technology has managed to eviscerate one industry after another. Some of these trends caught on like wildfire, while other ideas were forced to lay dormant for years while the rest of the world caught up. Whether you’re talking about landlines, photo processing booths or Blockbuster Video, sooner or later good ideas have a way of replacing yesterday’s technology.

Normally, I expect to see new innovators challenging the status quo, but one industry that is experiencing it’s own “life changing” moment right now, is actually being led by the incumbents. Most people think of billboards are being somewhat of an eyesore. If you’re located in an area where you spend a lot of time, then you know what it’s like to have to look at the same old ad for months and months. By the time they do update the ad, the old one is usually halfway peeled off. Advertisers may be able to reach millions of people with a campaign, but it limits the value when they have to plan their campaign months in advance and when the presentation makes their brand look so tattered.

Over the last year, there have been two improvements in the signage industry that have impressed me a lot. The first has been how effective Lamar Advertising has been at using their digital signage portfolio to make a splash in social media. When Ashton Kutcher was trying to hit 1 million followers on Twitter, the company cashed in by giving away free exposure to @aplusk. When the goons at NBC butchered the Tonight Show by bringing Leno back, Lamar used outrage over the incident to reach the heart and souls of TeamCoco fans. While neither of these examples netted the company any serious cash, what they did prove was how much the internet/media/consumers will freak out over billboards that mention current buzz. With most companies clueless about ways to drum up buzz, Lamar’s portfolio offers an easy way for their customers to inject themselves instantly into any social conversation. Even if the sign is only up for a day, it will live forever online. With the TV advertising industry ready to pop, there will be a lot of money available to businesses that can provide this kind of immediate reach and response.

The other signage company that has really caught my attention is Clear Channel Communications. The company may be a dinosaur and burdened with way too much debt, but over the next 2 years, they plan on deploying 300 interactive displays that can only be described as life sized iPads. So far the displays have been a huge hit at San Francisco bus stops and I think that they are the real deal. Before the holidays, Digital Signage Insights posted a comprehensive behind the scenes view into how they work and their capabilities,

“The content management system, graphics processing unit, and real-time measurement application built into each digital bus shelter are capable of producing 3D graphics and immersive content the likes of which have not been seen in the digital out-of-home media sector. Clear Channel and its partners have just begun to scratch the surface of what these systems are capable of. The “Yahoo Bus Stop Derby” is a crowning example of what can be achieved at the convergence point of creativity and technology. San Francisco’s interactive bus shelters have been built with the future in mind. Owing to Clear Channel’s and Obscura Digital’s views on the expansion of the web into real world environments, the units allow for seamless scalability and back-end cloud networking. From supporting cinema-level 3D graphics, processing interactive 3D visualizations, to offloading real-time rendering to the cloud, San Francisco’s new bus shelters can do everything short of driving you to the office. On top of that, the shelters have been equipped with a real-time user-metrics collection system that provides advertisers with actionable intelligence throughout their interactive campaigns. The granular behavioral data that the units capture can be used to optimize applications in real-time, so to achieve the highest level of user engagement.”

The outdoor signage industry may seem as quaint as using your spare change for the payphone, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the industry is evolving. Whether either of these companies have the balance sheet or wherewithal to move past their debt issues is another story entirely, but I certainly can’t fault them for creating new and innovative ways where advertisers and consumers can connect on a more emotional level.

Is Google Pulling A Bait And Switch On Their Users?

Search Spam
It’s no secret that newspapers have been challenged by the rise of the internet. Whether it’s pesky bloggers like myself giving content away for free or social networks redefining what a hot news story actually is, things have gotten incredibly competitive for traditional news organizations. As a result, we’ve seen everything from pleas for government assistance to blaming Google for directing massive amounts of traffic their way. While I’m sympathetic to anyone who is being displaced by innovation, as a consumer I’m also glad to have a ton more options for finding content.

I may have less brand loyalty to any one particular publication, but thanks to the magic of Google, it’s a lot easier to find a diverse set of opinions on topics that I care about. For the most part, I think that Google is the best thing since sliced bread, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t improve their product.

As the media landscape has gotten more competitive, I’ve noticed that publications are becoming increasingly aggressive at trying to monetize the eyeballs that they do get. This really started with the pop-up ad, but after the web browsers figured out how to turn this control over to the users, news companies seem to have switched tactics.

The latest trend is to insert an interstitial ad between you and the content. Usually, there’s some tiny link where you can bypass it or it auto-forwards after 30 seconds, but anytime I’m forced to watch an ad before knowing how good or bad the content actually is, it creates a lot of frustration with my web experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually a strong supporter of smart and innovative ways that advertisers can bring their messages to the public and I’m happier than most to support newspapers who are creating great content, but with so much bad content out there, I don’t feel that consumers should be forced to roll the dice, when there’s no payoff on the other end.

I could probably list a dozen major companies who are offenders, but my biggest beef is actually with Google. If I know that someone uses this type of aggressive advertising, it’s easy to quit visiting their site, but because Google is indexing billions of web pages, there’s no way to know which link is going to take me to real content and which link will take me to an ad.

As an example, if you search for the phrase “hardware spec for Microsoft’s pink phone” the first result is a story by ZDnet showing the first line of the blog post, but if you actually click on that link, it takes you to a page that is missing the content and only displays an ad instead. If you wait long enough you will be forwarded to the right destination, but isn’t this false advertising on behalf of Google?

If they know that someone’s browser is going to be hijacked, then why are they taking you to a different page instead. It’d be one thing if Google was trying to actively stop the process, but they’re actually helping publishers create more of these roadblocks on the web.

While Google is free to advertise (or link to anyone) that that they see fit, they should realize that this harms their own user experience while benefiting no one but spammy news publications. If a company like Bing or were to come out with an interstitial ban, it would take me about a half a second to change my default search engine. It may be that this isn’t seen as a big enough annoyance to do anything about or it could be too late and is considered an industry standard now, but to show one search result and then take a user to an entirely different page (albeit temporarily) feels an awful lot like a bait and switch tactic to me. What do you think, would Google be better off banning these ads from their search results or is content from newspapers so valuable that it would do more harm than good to blackball offenders like Forbes and ZDNet?

How Real Time Search Could Drive Traffic Offline

More ShopsFrom the first moment that I tried the internet, I was instantly hooked. After signing up for a “free” dial-up AOL membership, I remember getting my phone bill and being shocked at over $300 worth of local toll charges. Being 15 miles outside of civilization, I should have known that I was paying by the minute, but honestly I didn’t really think about how much time I was online. After that, I was more careful, but still paid more for that connection each month, then I pay for broadband today. While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where that time was spent, it was the ability to find information on topics that I really cared about that kept me clicking to all hours of the night.

When e-commerce started to become a reality, some were nervous about trying new companies online, but I had no reservations about being one of the first ones in online. While I still miss my Webvan and deliveries, no one can say that I didn’t do my part to support the shift from bricks to clicks. Given my preference for the online experience, it would be easy to conclude that for traditional retailers, I’m a lost cause. Yet, recently I’ve been thinking a lot about one of the biggest weaknesses of the online experience. For as fast as all those ones and zeros move, when it comes to instant gratification, you still need to wait a few days to receive most purchases.

While I do tend to plan ahead, there are times where I’m willing to pay a premium to have something right away and while it’s easy to transport media over broadband connections, when it comes to physical goods, you typically have to wait for UPS or the post office to stop by. This is a huge advantage for traditional retailers, but it’s one that I don’t believe that they are leveraging enough. Certainly, they do their best to draw traffic into their stores, but if they want to court the internet generation, they’ll need to use technology to better highlight this advantage.

Recently, I was in the mood for a little bit of world domination, so I set my sights on a lengthy game of Axis and Allies. For those who aren’t familiar with the game, it’s a complex simulation of world war two that is a ton of fun and can take all night to play. While there are digital versions of the game, it can’t fully replicate the real world experience of the board game.

It may have only taken me 10 seconds to find a copy of the game online, but when it came to finding out which local retailers carried the game, it was almost impossible to find. After a half a dozen phone calls to all of the usual suspects, I finally tracked down a copy that was over 40 miles away :(

In this case, I was so motivated to play the game that night, that I begrudgingly made the long journey to get it that day. While real time search has seen huge improvements over just the last year alone, when it comes to searching retail inventory, it’s almost unheard of to be able to check availability before driving to a store (let alone to be able to get that information in real time.) Yet, many companies employ expensive sophisticated inventory management software, that allows them to know exactly what’s sitting on their shelves, what’s being delivered via truck and what needs to be ordered pronto, just so that it can be restocked in time.

Despite this wealth of information though, unless you’re an employee inside of one of these companies, the data more or less doesn’t exist to the public. While there may be some competitive reasons to keep sensitive inventory data out of the hands of the public, I think that retailers are missing a golden opportunity to use that real time inventory data to draw online adopters like myself, back into their real world stores.

In the case of my situation, I would have gladly paid 50% more for the game, if I could have found it within 10 miles. Instead of being to forced to compete by heavy discounting, local stores could compete using their greatest advantage, the instant gratification that the internet simply can’t provide.

While i don’t expect that we’ll see this void filled in the near term, I do think that the firms who sell real time inventory solutions could easily become the next Google, by negotiating to list their client’s information online. Not only would retailers be able to charge different prices based upon distance or availability, but they could allow consumers to reserve and purchase the item before they even got in their car. If one of these real time inventory firms could get just a handful of major players to participate, it wouldn’t take long before real time inventory software went from being an efficient. but expensive luxury to a lucrative revenue source for their clients.

DVDPost Clones Netflix’s Website

When stumbled onto the Belgian DVD company, DVDPost, he noticed something eerily familiar about their website. Over the years, Netflix has inspired their fair share of copycats, but DVDPost had cloned more than just their business model, they completely ripped off Netflix’s website as well.

The similarities between the two sites made Copywrite wonder if Netflix was running a secret European division or if this was just a cheap international counterfeit. While the conspiracy theorist in me desperately wanted to believe that Netflix was using Belgian subsidiaries to expand internationally, deep down inside I knew that this was just another internet knock off. It wasn’t the first time that Netflix’s website had been copied and it probably wouldn’t be the last.

My gut reaction was to start blasting DVDPost as a fake, but luckily I decided to do a little research first. Instead of finding another internet scam, I found a renegade DVD company that has been trying to make a name for themselves, by stirring up controversy in the media.

DVDPost first struck publicity paydirt, when they ran a commercial for a spoof company named Rent-A-Wife. The ad featured a man tying up his wife and trading her for a new one :) DVDPost claimed that the ads were meant to be light hearted, but critics felt that the company had gone too far with the shock tactics. After local media pressure, DVDPost yanked the Rent-A-Wife website, but followed it up with an equally tasteful ad, featuring Osama Bin Laden as one of their customers.

While it’s possible that DVDPost is trying to fool consumers into thinking that they are somehow related to Netflix, I think its more likely that their recent web redesign is part of a PR campaign. Normally, I try not to fall for this kind of PR bait, but I found their marketing techniques too entertaining, to resist commenting on this latest guerrilla ad campaign.

Fox Business News Foozles Again: How A New Video Strategy Could Salvage Their Online Reputation

Lolz FoxWhen I first heard that Fox was coming out with a new business channel, Rupert Murdoch had me at “more corporate friendly.” Since CNBC seems to only cover the hype and Bloomberg is painfully boring, I was hopeful that Fox could provide a fresh perspective on business events, while still entertaining me with their bombshell anchors and their sensationalism style of reporting.

Unfortunately, Fox Business News has turned out to be a big joke and continues to lose credibility on Wall St. Since launching the channel, I’ve seen three of their stories to go viral, but instead of giving me a reason why for why I should be tuning in, the stories have been about embarrassing gaffes by the channel.

The first story involved an anchor who incorrectly reported that Apple had purchased an 8% stake in AMD. Even after discovering the mistake, Fox compounded this error by misreporting that it was the “Arabs” who had purchased AMD instead.

A few days later, Fox followed up this viral hit with another blunder, after they rushed to report that HP had missed their earnings estimates, when in fact they had easily beaten them.

The latest story to hit the innerweb, involves a man on the street interview with a planted shill from the National Retail Federation :roll:

I don’t know why Fox is having so many problems getting their news right, but these types of stories are having a serious impact on their credibility. “Fair and balanced” may work for their political reporting, but when traders are betting millions of dollars on breaking information, they expect their news to be accurate.

While it’s easy to blame these PR errors on clumsy anchors, I think that Fox’s PR failings have more to do with their web video strategy. These may only be a few isolated events, but without positive buzz, it leaves people with the impression that Fox gets things wrong, more often then right. I don’t think that Fox can prevent future goof ups from going viral, but by making it easier for the web community to share their reporting, they could begin to repair their tattered reputation.

When it comes to premium content, it’s understandable that the studios would be reluctant to move it to the net, but when it comes to business news, it’s an entirely different animal. You don’t need to watch Heroes live, in order to extract value from the content, but breaking financial news isn’t the sort of thing that people time shift.

Because the information is time sensitive, it protects business channels from the DVR effect, but it also limits the monetary value of their archived content. Even though people won’t pay for a Squawk on the Street DVD box set, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t real marketing value locked up in the business news vaults.

The problem with Fox’s web video strategy, is that they are trying to control what goes viral, by only uploading certain highlights to their website. This might help to beef up the content on their site, but it doesn’t make the best use of their archived footage. I believe that the stock market is the ultimate example of the long tail in action. The large cap companies may get all the press, but there are an unbelievable number of companies out there and each one has an eager audience. By making it easier for the long tail community to easily share their reporting, I believe that Fox can strike a body blow against their CNBC rival.

Over the last year, Sling Media has been working on a clip and sling service, that would allow their customers to snip certain sections of a program and send them to people in their social network. Sling hasn’t released very many details on the software, but it’s already stirred up some controversy among some of the media companies.

Instead of fighting this technology, Fox should be using it as a weapon against CNBC. If Fox were to run a 20 minute delayed feed and let viewers clip and share the news within their social circles, they would soon have an army of volunteers creating a massive and valuable advertising platform for them. It may only be a 60 second clip talking about an obscure company, but that clip would get included in email groups, message boards and blogs, that are devoted to these subjects.

By running the news at a 20 minute delay, it would also encourage people to watch the channel live, so that they could then jump online to share the video. It would also help the home viewers have a better understanding of how breaking news impacts the markets. With most online quote services being 20 minutes delayed, sometimes its hard to tell why a stock is jumping or falling without the live data. If home viewers had a way of syncing the business news with their delayed quotes, it could help them to make better sense of the trading activity in the markets. A 20 minute delay would also give Fox enough time to at least spin/correct any mistakes, before the bloggers jumped all over them.

Giving up this type of control can be scary for big media companies, but Fox has already lost control of their live video. If they have a major screw up, someone out there will take the time to get that footage onto YouTube because scandal sells and people love to gossip, but if they have an interesting interview with an exec, someone needs to be really motivated before they can share that content with their audience.

Instead of fighting this trend, Fox should accept that they can’t suppress live video and instead make it easier for people to share the good reporting that is also going on. Instead of limiting their videos to mainstream content, Fox should be opening up their programming to the entire web, so that they can leverage the marketing power of the content. When you only hear about the negatives, it’s hard to put a lot of value on Fox’s live coverage, but if people started to see content that was relevant to them, it would make them think about how they would have seen it live, if they were only watching Fox business instead.

IBM Files Patent For Putting Advertisements On DVDs

Coming Soon To DVDIt’s hard for me to believe that there isn’t prior art for this already, but while I was digging through the US patent website, I noticed that IBM had filed an application for putting non-skipable commercials onto DVDs. According to the application, the commercials could either be updated via the internet or they could be embedded directly on the disc.

“A method wherein contents of DVDs may be restricted based upon purchased certificates is provided. The certificates allow for secured information on playback. Specifically, whenever a DVD is to be played, a certificate is consulted to determine whether the content of the DVD should be played with or without commercial interruptions. If the certificates provide for commercial interruptions, then commercials can be obtained from an online service that renders commercials on demand, or from the DVD itself. In such a case, the content of the DVD may be interspersed with commercials.”

I’m usually a fan of new DVD technology, but I’ve got mixed feelings on this one. Every now and then, I’ll come across a DVD that won’t let me skip past the previews and it drives me absolutely nuts. If I’ve already paid for my content, then should I be forced to watch advertisements? It makes me feel like the studios are double dipping.

On the other hand, I could see plenty of advantages to having ad supported DVDs. There are a lot of people who aren’t willing to pay money, in order to watch a DVD. If they can catch up on a series by dealing with the ads, then this technology could introduce time shifting to an entirely new audience. It could also open up new distribution channels for content providers. For example, if McDonalds included ad supported Disney flicks in their Happy Meals, I’d wager that they would reach more viewers, then Friday nights on ABC.

With advertisers already scared to death of the ad skipping powers of the DVR, I could see studios adopting this as a way of shoring up advertising revenue. I’m certain that the TV producers would prefer live viewers, but if a consumer ends up watching the ads eventually, then why should it matter, when they see the program?

One of the more interesting components to the IBM application, was it’s focus on internet delivered advertising. Whenever I’ve been forced to watch previews on DVDs, it’s typically been for movies that were released a long time ago. While the previews may have been relevant seven years ago, they seem a little outdated today. I don’t think that the free DVD consumer market is going to have the latest internet connected DVD players, but I still found it interesting to learn, that IBM is working on a solution to this problem.

I don’t see this patent making it all the way through the application process, but I do expect that we’ll see more of these types of advertisements in the future. The optimist in me, would love to see this technology used to reach new consumers, but my inner cynic knows that the studios would rather unleash ads on paying viewers, then risk cannibalizing their precious DVD. I don’t fully understand IBM’s motives for filing the patent, but thought that it was an interesting solution for bringing entertainment to the masses.

Invasion Of The Pod Snatchers

Your Ticket To A Better Night's SleepEvery now and then, a study will be released suggesting that DVR owners don’t actually skip very many ads. While I can understand why people would want to watch certain programs live, it’s always hard for me to take this kind of data seriously, because it tracks so differently, from my own DVR experience.

I love being able to time shift my television and take full advantage of my fast forward button. If I absolutely need to see something live, I’ll still wait 20 minutes, just so that I can skip past the commercials. Over the last six years, I’ve been every marketers worst nightmare and yet, there has been one company that I have never been able to block.

Sleeptrain Mattress Centers

It’s not a major company, but this sleepy little company has been able to outsmart the DVR, by exploiting the very fast forward feature, that I love so much.

When you are fast forwarding, you don’t know when to stop until after your program has already started. Because of this, TiVo has built in a feature that starts playing the program a few seconds before you actually hit the play button. The idea is to account for the time that it takes your brain to tell your finger to hit the button.

When I bought my first TiVo, I did a good job of fusing with the skip back feature. By instinct, I knew the exact moment that I needed to hit play, in order to achieve TiVo nirvana. It sounds funny, but there is a certain sense of satisfaction, in starting a program exactly as a commercial ends.

It wasn’t until I “upgraded” to a cable company HDTV-DVR, that I lost my TiVo mojo. The fast forward speed on the generic device was beyond ridiculous and I had a hard time adjusting. Add to this the lag time, whenever you hit play anyway and it was easy to go 15 minutes into a program, before I could regain control of the DVR. I don’t remember the exact timing on the cable skip back, but it seemed much shorter then TiVo’s and required lightning fast reflexes, in order to get right.

When I upgraded to a TiVo series 3, I thought that my commercial skipping rhythm would return, but sadly, I haven’t been able to make the adjustment back. I’m still trigger happy when it comes to hitting play and start things far too early. I’ve thought about using hacks to shorten the length of the auto skip back feature, but would rather try and adjust to the default if I can.

Because I’ve had difficulty hitting the TiVo sweet spot, it means that I catch the end of a lot of advertisements. There aren’t a lot of companies that have focused on this, but over the years I’ve noticed that Sleep Train Mattress Centers seems to be at the end of a lot of commercial pods.

At first, I thought that this was a random thing, but I’ve also noticed that they buy time at the 30 minute marks, so that their logo is the last thing you see, when you delete a lot of programs from your DVR. As advertising continues to adjust to a DVR world, we’ll see more companies begin to pay a premium, in order to capture even a few seconds of a viewers attention.

In thinking about DVR advertising, there are two key spots. The first spot following a commercial and the very last moments before a program starts. The first spot is important because the advertiser has a chance to convince the viewer to watch. It’s like a home version of the Gong show. The minute you realize it’s boring, you hit fast forward and are back to your program. Sometimes, if it’s a movie preview or an especially creative ad, they can convince me to watch, but most of the time, I’m fast forwarding the second I know that it’s not part of the show.

With all of the middle ads being largely ignored, those last few seconds of a pod may be the only other chance for an advertiser to reach a fast forwarding public. I haven’t seen a lot of companies take advantage of this, but give kudos to Sleeptrain for having taken early advantage of this. They may not be able to convince me to buy a new mattress, but through the use of micro commercials and smart placement, they have succeeded at burning their logo into my brain, every time I hear a train whistle.

New Security Questions For A Digital TV World

Riot ActIf you’ve ever called up your bank or credit card company, you know that most financial institutions tend to stick with the same old boring account verification questions. There may have been a time, when your mother’s maiden name was enough to protect you against identity theft, but in today’s information society, this is no longer good enough.

I’m not sure why we haven’t seen banks ask more creative questions, but I like Om Malik’s suggestion, that it’s time to come up with new secret password questions. In a post raising the issue, he suggests alternatives like what is your World of Warcraft name or who was your first online date?

The World of Warcraft suggestion is probably a little weak because outside people can figure that out, but I’d argue that the first internet date question, is probably a much bigger secret then the last four digits of someone’s social security number. Since most of Om’s suggestions were geared more towards the Web 2.0 crowd, I decided to put together a list of my own questions, for digital television enthusiasts. Feel free to chime in, if you have your own suggestions.

1.) What show do you always record, but never find the time to watch?

2.) Name a TV show that you love, but would never admit to being a fan of?

3.) What is the worst show on television?

4.) What operating system do you use for your television (ex: TiVo, Media Center, Xbox 360, etc.)?

5.) If you had to remove one button from your remote control, which one would you give up?

6.) How many hours of TV do you watch each week?

7.) What time is prime time for you?

8.) What’s a show, that you make sure to always watch live?

9.) How low do prices need to get, before you’d be willing to pay for VOD content?

10.) What is your favorite TV channel?

For a few of these, it would be hard for a bank to implement them because they don’t apply to everyone, but I still like the idea of tougher security at the banks, even if they don’t end up using my digital TV questions. It’s strange that you have to change your banking passwords every 6 weeks, to something that is alphanumeric, contains wacky symbols and is only 8 – 10 digits long, yet all it takes is the city of your birth and someone can change your mailing address or gather information about your account.

The banks would benefit more than anyone, from better security questions and I see a real marketing opportunity for the first institution to step up and take Om’s suggestion seriously. If someone agreed to add, even one of his (or his readers) questions to their password reset screen, they’d get a lot of viral love highlighting their commitment to protecting their customer’s identity. In the end, it’s up to everyone to keep an eye on their own accounts, but by making the security questions more personal, it would make it a lot harder for fraudsters, to gain unauthorized access.

And Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Progamming

TiVo released a video of their HD start up animation online and I think it’s really creative. I haven’t seen this show up on my series 3 yet, so it makes me wonder if this is what people are seeing when they boot up the new HD TiVo? I like how they were able to use different TV shows in the animation.

As an added bonus, I also found an advertisement for TiVo and Sky+. The ad is very surreal, but I like it. I think that the ad was originally produced as a trailer in UK movie theaters in 2000, although I’m not 100% on that. After getting used to hearing the “TiVo Gets Me” tagline, it was interesting to see a more British version of “TiVo Understands Me” on this clip. Oddly enough, I think I prefer the British tagline over the American.