MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE; Generic ads show cable’s new-found marketing agenda

Oh, those smart-arse media columnists. Here’s what one wrote last August: ‘...the Cable Communications Association’s ‘generic awareness’ drive sounds like a complete waste of time. What it needs... is some good old-fashioned direct marketing and less of this waffly awareness nonsense... The cable companies have to do two things: first, shift the emphasis internally from digging up roads to marketing; and get cracking on tie-ups with the local press whose great strength is their relationship with the community.’ Tough stuff, eh?

Oh, those smart-arse media columnists. Here’s what one wrote last

August: ‘...the Cable Communications Association’s ‘generic awareness’

drive sounds like a complete waste of time. What it needs... is some

good old-fashioned direct marketing and less of this waffly awareness

nonsense... The cable companies have to do two things: first, shift the

emphasis internally from digging up roads to marketing; and get cracking

on tie-ups with the local press whose great strength is their

relationship with the community.’ Tough stuff, eh?



And nor did our friend leave it there. First pouring cold water on the

individual cable companies’ willingness to fund a generic campaign, he

then sticks a final knife between the ribs: ‘And anyway, can you imagine

the 50-strong marketing committee of the CCA actually approving any

half-way decent ads?’



This week, of course, sees the launch of a fully integrated pounds 12

million campaign for the CCA through J. Walter Thompson in which a

highly excited Dawn French expounds the joys of cable - telephony, home

banking and shopping and so on, not to mention TV choice. You can make

up your own mind about the ads - me, I’ll just say they’re more than

half-way decent and bang on brief. In fact, I think they’re wonderful,

although I’m still wondering why Dawn French looks like the terrifying

Julie T. Wallace from the Life and Loves of a She Devil. And why is she

riding a plastercast cow? Spooky.



Now let’s address the other points. First, the new emphasis on

marketing. Certainly, the appointment of Mike Hayes from Nintendo and

the ex-Hertz man, Bob Frost, at the CCA suggests that, at long last, it

is getting there. But that is only part of the answer. Rather like

Eurotunnel and Eurostar, the cable operators are at heart engineering

companies which have yet to accept the need to graft on a marketing

culture. This is crucial, for if they can’t handle and convert the

responses the ads will undoubtedly generate, then cable will be no

further forward. In this, cable has to realise that it is essentially a

retailer, providing a shopfront for a number of services, one of which

happens to be more TV choice. And the secret of retail, of course, is

customer service.



Meanwhile, the development of closer links with the press is a

continuation of the retailer theme, although it will be a long-term

process. Some press owners - such as Mirror Group Newspapers and Midland

Independent Newspapers - seem to have got a handle on this.



But telephony may be the ace up cable’s sleeve. BT certainly thinks so,

and with portability of phone numbers - perhaps the biggest single

obstacle to telephony-linked cable growth - only a year or so away, BT

could be on the edge of a major loss of market share.



And who was this clever clogs who was so wrong? I think you can probably

guess. Still, nobody’s perfect.



Spotlight, p22



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