Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Deserve's got nothing to do with it....."

If you happened to be out in West Conshohocken, at the Calvary Cemetery on Thursday, you might have had a chance to see Jeff Lurie and Roger Goodell get together and piss all over Bert Bell's grave. Okay....not literally, but they may as well have. While it's always folly to pretend to speak for a dead man, it's hard to imagine Bell--founder of the Eagles and the former NFL Commisioner who, in 1946, enacted a strict player conduct code--feeling anything but shock and dismay over the hiring of Michael Vick, and what the NFL has become.

The thing I find most irritating is the recurrent meme that he has done his time, and "deserves a second chance." In the words of William Munny in the great Unforgiven, and later, Snoop in The Wire, "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."

Down on the east side of Newport News lots of poor kids see athletics as their only way out. Like Vick, many of them will go through the Boys and Girls Club football program, then go on to play high school ball at Warwick. Though many, if not most, of them will work and practice and play just as hard as Vick did, most of their athletic careers will end right there. The handful good enough to go onto play college ball will work and practice and play just as hard as Vick, but only a tiny percentage of them will ever play a day as a pro. In the NFL everyone works hard. They study hard. You don't get to that level unless you give it your best every day. Even at that level, most don't achieve the superstar status of guys like Vick, T.O. and the Mannings. There is a reason for that--it's called genetics. As noted exercise physiologist Dr Andrew Coggan is fond of saying, the first prerequisite for success as an elite athlete is, "Pick your parents wisely." The biggest factor in Vick's success is something he did nothing to deserve--it was a gift of genetics.

All those kids in all those shitty neighborhoods who worked and studied just as hard and devoted the same amount of time, sweat and tears in hopes of achieving something greater never got the chance Vick got. Didn't they deserve that chance? But, by luck of emerging from the wrong womb, they never had the shot at fame and fortune Vick did. And what did he do with that gift he did nothing to deserve? He threw it away.

It's not like there weren't people who reached out to him along the way. Dan Reeves tried to get through to him. Andrew Young reached out to him. Vick rebuked all efforts. He chose to turn his back on every chance he's ad so far, and given no reason to believe he won't piss this one away as well.

It all begs the question, how many chances do you get before it stops being a second chance?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

NBC=Next Big Cutback?

The news that NBC O&O's are gutting their in-house promotions departments should come as no surprise. They're already cut back their news departments so much there's hardly anything worth promoting anymore.

From my perspective of having been laid-off in the past year, this sucks for those getting the ax, and my heart goes out to them.

From a marketing perspective, this could make sense. As an ever-growing number of viewers use TiVo and other DDRs, the traditional model of television promotion simply does not work. Tuesday night's, "....tonight at 11" promo is useless for those watching the show Thursday morning. The way people watch television has changed, and the vast majority of promotions departments haven't adapted. They still focus primarily on short-term topical promotion. New media, and social media are either unused, or an afterthought. To make matters worse, most in-house Creative departments have scarce experience with image and branding. Local television needs a new model, and if done correctly, this could be a good start. But, if you think this is going to be done correctly, think again. Here's why:
"In the new organization, creative services executives at each station will determine their local market branding campaigns and promotion strategies...."
There you have the problem in a nutshell. The prevalent notion in broadcasting is that branding is something you do with campaigns, logos and music. They don't get that a brand isn't something created in a campaign, but the overall experience. The best marketing can't sell a bad product for long, and right now the product is the problem.

Local television news has always been pretty dreadful, but the recent mass layoffs and buyouts have had a devastating effect. Forget lack of talent and experience, stations today are lacking in the warm bodies needed to function at a subsistence level. All the best marketing can do is bring customers through the door--once they're there, the product has to deliver or those customers won't come back. Right now there is nothing at any of the networks O&Os, or most other stations that are remotely watchable.

If NBC stations want to fix the brand, they have to start by fixing the product. If, instead of simply reducing head count and improving the bottom line, they replace the lost promotions positions with more people in the newsroom, this could be a good thing. It would be a good step toward putting a watchable newscast on the air. Sadly, I don't see that happening.

For years, NBC and all the rest have taken the customer for granted. You can only do that for so long before they all go away. Too bad they still haven't figured that out. Right now, the networks still have the mindset of R.J. Fletcher from UHF's Channel 8.