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Mr. Disney, Be A Member in OUR Club

For many people, this story must be some kind of dream: free episodes of "Desperate Housewives" available on the net? (Disney to Make TV Shows Available Free on Web.)

"In an effort to extend its broadcast economic model to the Internet, the Walt Disney Company said today that it would offer some of its most popular ABC television shows free on its Web sites but with commercials that cannot be eliminated," reports The New York Times.  'The shows include Desperate Housewives, Lost, Commander-in-Chief and Alias."

This seemed like something of a non-event to me at first, because I have a guilty secret: I've never seen a single episode of the Desperate Housewives - or for that matter, Lost, C-I-C, or Alias.  I know that must put me into a small minority of the US population.  But it's true.  My TV viewing is really limited to two categories: The Simpsons and interesting live sports events, such as yesterday's Masters Tournament.

The absence of TV from my life is driven by several factors.  First, being the father of two small children, I really don't have the time; second, what viewing time I have has shifted significantly to the Internet; and third, I've realized that I'm no longer part of the advertisers' "core demographic" of 18 to 34 year olds.

Until recently, I was a regular TV watcher, but in contrast, my wife (four years older than me) was not.  If she came into the family room and briefly watched one of the ads up on the big screen, she would often just shake her head.  Incessant cries of "Wazzup?" were not just her cup of tea.  "You're not part of the target audience," I would say.  "I can see that," she would agree, and then leave.

Having turned 36 at the end of last year,  I have now "caught up" with my spouse.  Most of the ads I see in the commercial breaks have become so unappealing and tiresome that frankly I'd rather not watch the TV programs that surround them.  (And before you ask, yes, I have heard of TiVo, but that's a whole other discussion.)

But somehow, this idea of having Desperate Housewives delivered through the Net, even with ads that can't be deleted or skipped, is very appealing to me.

How so?  Because if Disney did this right, they would apply the principles of Enterprise Decision Management to recapture lost TV viewers like me, while also dramatically improving the value they are delivering to advertisers.

If Disney armed itself with rules and predictive analytics as part of a broader content delivery infrastructure, then they could incorporate personalized ads into the episodes they send out for online consumption.

I'm not suggesting that the ads should call me by name.  ( As in, "Welcome, Ian, to a new world of freshness." ) I mean that specific ads fitting my individual needs and preferences would be added to my program stream from larger a set of available slots.

If I am watching Eva Longoria cavorting across the backlawns of Wisteria Lane, I don't want to see testosterone-charged ads for beer, just as I don't want to see ads for skin moisturizers.  A promotion for a mid-range car or a new make of razors would be very much more appropriate.

This seems kind of obvious, and I suspect Disney has thought of this.  Certainly the Mouse has some pretty powerful marketing thinkers in their camp, and with companies like P&G, Unilever, and Toyota providing advertising support, there is every possibility it's cropped up in their brainstorming sessions.  Where they might be stumped is in thinking about how to make it happen.

Of course, I think the answer to their question is Enterprise Decision Management.

Just think about applying the core dimensions of "Decision Yield":

  • Precision:  Disney and its advertisers can apply predictive analytics to extrapolate from a viewer's demographics and prior behaviors to the exact nature of the advertising that will be most likely to elicit a response.
  • Consistency:  The issue here is probably not delivering the exact same ad every time the same viewer watches the same program, but instead aggregating the consumer's viewing experiences over time, and presenting ads in the right sequence and at the right time.
  • Agility:  If Disney was particularly cunning in its system design, it would incorporate some form of Experimental Design - such as varying creative treatments or the timing of spots within a program - into the delivery of some small proportion of its ads (say 10%) .  And as it learned what was working and what wasn't, it would rapidly update the rules on which the delivery of the remaining ads was based.

The advantages are obvious.  Suddenly, presented with advertising that is relevant to me, TV becomes interesting again.  Audiences will naturally creep up, assuming the quality of the programming remains the same.

But much more importantly the advertising itself is incredibly more effective.

Remember the old saying about how 50% of all advertising is a waste - the problem is just can't tell which 50%.  Well, now you can target the right message to the right consumer, driving down the number of wasted impressions.  And advertisers can build in closed-loop mechanisms - such as simple clickthrough tracking - to improve the results of each ad.  Surely, this is advertising nirvana?

So, here's my invitation to Mr. Disney, or rather to Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney-ABC television group who announced this initiative to a meeting of cable executives today.  Come join our club.  Come be part of the growing number of firms that have deployed Enterprise Decision Management to increase the precision, consistency, and agility of their operations.   We'll be pleased to show you how.

And if you won't, perhaps Mr. Murdoch will give us a call.  I mean, how else will I ever see my beloved Simpsons online?

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