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Archive for the ‘Branding’ Category

Human methane release and the accompanying sonic vibrations normally invoke embarassment, joviality and good-natured finger-pointing. However, every culture also has certain places or circumstances where cutting the cheese violates strict social norms. In Finland, that place would be the sauna when others are present.

The equivalent behavior in the print media world would be discussing publicly the mechanisms and conditions under which a publisher grants discounts to buyers of ad space.

The GOP attack on MoveOn.org’s ad knocking four-star Army General David Petraeus inadvertantly (at least at first) wanders into what is normally a safe space in publishing. After all, there is no problem, First Amendment or otherwise, with asking whether the ad constitutes a malicious attack that defames a public figure. What is inappropriate is that the KooKoo People have made MoveOn.org’s receipt of a discount for placing the ad an issue. If we start public attacks on sacred business secrets we could we see a deconstructionist fad that exposes the core trade practices of everybody from tax lawyers to defense contractors.

 Every magazine and newspaper, including the NY Times, publishes a rate card. These are the magazine’s official retail rates for space (and they are rarely cheap).  A 15% part of that rate is typically shared with larger ad agencies, who may in turn keep that part of the ad buy or refund a part of the provision to the customer if there is an agreement. Customers that pay the full retail price typically get treated very well and usually are automatically given other perks. Otherwise, the rate card simply sets the ground rules in the battle to buy and sell media space. Smaller buyers often turn to media buyers who consolidate large blocks of advertising to get a special rate. The big buyer may get, say, a 50% discount, then turn around and share 20% with their clients. That is exercise of the same volume buying power Wal-Mart uses on its suppliers. There is also opportunistic buying. Here, and for some reason this business is often conducted by under-30 females, the seller and buyer first nonverbally communicate by providing evidence of ownership or control of certain commodity and production capital fetishes, then the buyer conditions the offer with a question like “Can I get that for less?” Then the horse-trade is on to see who blinks first on ad placement and price on campaigns that may span TV, radio and print in multiple markets. Finally, there are companies that are so big they have an in-house ad department that negotiates ads directly with each magazine. As they are the lifeblood of the publisher, they will simply hammer on price and placement until they get what they want. My sense is that MoveOn.org has become a large enough media buyer to be able to negotiate an ad buy with the NY Times without outside help.

Despite the fantasy that NY Times advertising sales department is in cahoots with MoveOn.org to get Petraeus, the reality is that the content of the ad likely never entered into the negotiation. Unfortunately, the NY Times editorial staff cannot really respond honestly to the sheer silliness of the attack as it they’d have to reveal how the sausage is made. Instead, NY Times editor Clark Hoyt gives the rather feeble response that:

The Times bends over backward to accommodate advocacy ads, including ads from groups with which the newspaper disagrees editorially. 

 The editorial department probably never even knew the ad had been bought until they saw the printed paper. However, the NY Times detractors surely sensed they’d hit a sore point when they mentioned ad rates, demonstrating in the process they have no idea how media works. Everybody is now going to expect a “discount” when they buy as space from the NY Times, which will hurt ad agencies, advertisers and readers alike.  The publisher, unfortunately, will just have to bear this sauna fart.

Update: The House today also took time to condemn the ad. Interestingly, John Armor, a conservative lawyer, argues the ad discount constituted a “gift” to MoveOn, which must have made publishers everywhere wince yet again. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence that the paper had a political motive in granting a discount for the ad. The claim is simply another iteration of the conservative sentiment that the paper has a liberal bias. Indeed, the discount was based on a condition that MoveOn to accept that the ad would run on the nearest day to their desired run-day when space came available. Now MoveOn has belatedly paid the full price for the ad — a real gift to the NY Times as it dispells the notion that a discount should be expected for any political ad.

Yet now we have an large majorities in Congress supporting a false linkage; here that political content motivated a discount. Heaven forbid that Congress put their weight behind other false linkages.

The NY Times obviously would have refused the ad if they thought it defamatory and opened them to republisher liability. But we all know nobody will ever file a libel suit against MoveOn for the ad because it is not defamatory. And we also know Congress will never spend a second condemning the much harsher critique of General Petraeus by his boss, US Central Command head Admiral Bill Fallon

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With the world in dire need of a tourniquet to halt the hemorrhaging caused by George W. Bush’s so-called “war on terror” and our insatiable greed that is bringing climate change on us hard and fast, one question we can ask is what can be done?

To simplify things, the world could be seen like the ten players (the G8 + 2) on a basketball court with two referees (the US/Nato and China/Russia) and onlookers (the world).

Certainly the refs can make as many bad calls as they wish. They have the power to do so. However, as they make poor calls the players and the crowd start to get rowdier. In the end the refs lose control of the game and all hell breaks loose.

This is exactly what is happening in the Middle East thanks to Iraq and Israel’s untenable policy in the region.

Might isn’t right. It isn’t a sustainable foreign policy.

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Seems like some people are a bit shrill.

The Calm Before the iPhone Arrival Storm: The Last Days of the Cell Phone Industry Cabal « TWO A DAY

However, you have to wonder. Like most Finnish families we have several retired Nokia phones around the house. I am intensely brand loyal to Nokia. Some of the earlier simpler Nokia phones were incredibly robust -we had an NMT car system that lasted until the network was phased out. Also some of the early GSM phones were long-lived. But lately the war has been to push down price while adding features. What does an ex-factory production cost of €40 per handset get you these days? Not much.

My wife recently went through three rounds of repairs with her Nokia 6103, which failed to work properly right out of the box. The salespeople said it was a susi, but refused to swap it with another new one until Nokia’s guys here in Finland (!) had been given a chance to diagnose and repair the problem. After two cheap fix attempts, they finally replaced the entire front half of the clam. Crappiness is, of course, one outcome of never-ending cost-cutting. Apple, which has made some crappy products on occasion, nevertheless, has fought its battles mostly in that part of the market less sensitive to price (e.g. electronic publishing), while letting the price wars rage in such areas as game computers. I suspect the Apple iphone will not be cheap.

My own experience with features is that I never use them. However, my wife and son often find a few of the features very useful and use them heavily. In that sense, the on-board features are like a menu at a restaurant, you can eat whatever you like, but you are unlikely to ever eat the entire menu. For the last 20 years, global manufacturing businesses (and to a lesser extent remote service providers) have been on a quest to exploit differences across countries in terms of labor cost and inputs. But ultimately there must be a bottom and we may be finding it. Certainly, China’s great economic advance has come at a massive environmental cost. The decision to go to China has also diluted the “Made in Finland” brand pretty badly, which is odd because countries like Japan have managed to keep brand loyalty in, say, cars, by pointing out that critical components are still made in Japan and that only the most fungible parts and assembly are done elsewhere.

On the matter of why it may be wiser to reduce choice than quality, go to Google and watch the video.

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