With streaming taking the front of the TV hype stage, it’s time to take a more objective look at traditional TV.

The average adult, according to Nielsen/Marketing Charts, spends 5 hours and 21 minutes per day consuming video content. That is nearly a full-time job watching video screens for the average American adult (nearly 37.5 hours per week or 81 days a year). That number is all video viewing — traditional TV, connected devices, computer screens, smartphones, tablets …

So for traditional TV you can sum up how it is doing in one word: older. People 50 to 64 watch an average of nearly 5 hours of traditional TV per day. People 65 and older watch 6 hours and 39 minutes per day. The numbers drop dramatically for ages 35-49 (2 hours 43 minutes) and for ages 18-34 (1 hour and 12 minutes). There has been a percentage loss year over year for all age groups except 65-plus.

For traditional TV, Gen Xers and boomers are the core audiences. What we don’t know is: As 12-to-34-year-olds age, will they turn to traditional TV or stay with connected devices? This cohort is spending more time with connected devices than traditional TV to begin their video watching. Older boomers did not grow up with connected devices.

You may say that it’s time to get off traditional TV because it is not reaching enough younger audiences. However, here’s a word of caution: The 50-plus audience accounts for more than half the consumer spending in the U.S. In other words, the 50-plus group buys more than half the new vehicles, they have strong earnings power, they shop online, they buy 70% of medical supplies and prescription drugs and 51% of food.

Time is important and so is money. Traditional TV still has both.

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.

Domino’s Noid has returned to the company’s advertising. The nemesis mascot’s return provides Domino’s with a villain for its brand story, but also is scoring high with Gen Xers and millennials.

There is a way to give your rather blah brand some real personality and pizazz — simply add a mascot. According to an Ad Age-Harris poll, 79% enjoy brand characters. Why? Plainly it is because they are more human than the company or organization.

Characters don’t always have to be animated. One of the most popular characters is the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. It was introduced in 1936 and is still a major hit today. Oscar Mayer has found a way to increase the brand value by offering overnight stays in the iconic “mobile.” It’s $136 per night, and you just have to be in the city that the promotional character is traveling to.

Madison Avenue created most of the iconic characters we all remember. In fact, there is a Madison Avenue Walk of Fame every year in which advertising characters are recognized. (The advertising industry loves awards.)

Characters humanize an organization, product or service. It is a great way to build the personality of your brand and have people like you. Every insurance company has realized they have boring personalities, so now you see all the aggressive insurance companies with some kind of character icon to hang their personality hat on.

See if you can name the advertiser for each of these characters. I’ve also included the year they were first introduced to the public.

  1. Mayhem Guy 2010
  2. Flo 2008
  3. Mr. Peanut 1916
  4. Doughboy 1965
  5. Juan Valdez 1959
  6. Gecko 1999
  7. Colonel Sanders 1952
  8. Tire Man 1898
  9. White Duck 2000
  10. Salt Girl 1914
  11. Tiger 1952
  12. Bunny 1989
  13. King 1955
  14. The Hall of Claims

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.

I have a degree in journalism from a major university, but other than a few newspaper stringer stories, I’ve never been a practicing “real” journalist.

I’ve mostly operated in the world of brand journalism (try saying that around a J-school).  Some people call it content marketing, but for me, brand journalism says it best. Brand journalism uses the skills found in traditional journalism to tell a story on behalf of a company, organization or cause.

As a brand journalist, you worry more about the audience than you would as a “real” journalist. Yet you still must find the story, research the story, edit the story and publish the story. Yours is a difference of purpose — you don’t need to be objective as a brand journalist. Some believe objectivity has left the building for regular journalists as well. 

To me the goal of a brand journalist is to write stories that strongly connect with people on a personal level. This connection subtly provides a favorable impression about the brand. When you think about a brand personality, brand journalism is where it is forged. It is not created with a bunch of indiscriminate content creation. 

I was always amazed when one of my brand “stories” would run in a local paper — sometimes on the front page and sometimes word for word — but with someone else’s byline. My goal was not to promote my name, but the name of my client or employer.

Brand journalism is not engagement journalism (and that is for another blog post).

The brand journalist is here to stay because digital is allowing for the brand to publish all the “news” that’s fit to print. If you want your brand personality to shine, bring on the brand journalist.

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.

What do people want from advertising? Today the once distinct line between advertising and editorial is blurring, so no matter what kind of “ad” you are constructing, remember people want to be “informed” more than any other attribute.

Research conducted by the GlobalWebIndex found that consumers really want good information, they also want to know if there is a special offer or discount, and they want to know about things relevant to them or “teach me something new.” In the top tier group was also the response, “entertain me,” yet “make me laugh” was down the list at the 6th position.  

It was found that people do want ads that are relevant to them, but not in a “creepy way.”  If the ad is too targeted, then that approach may have a negative impact on the brand perception.

It’s also time to tighten the ship on ad adjacencies. You may not be watching, but consumers say one third of respondents view of a brand would be negatively impacted if the ad appeared next to “inappropriate content.”

So, while you’re trying to be widely creative in your messaging, remember the first order of things people want from your advertisement—they simply want good ole information.  

I have not thought much about AM radio since I signed on with SiriusXM. There just is no programming for me on AM radio. Yet, a story about AM radio stopped me in my tracks: The headline said, “Automakers are pulling the plug on AM radio.”

I know AM radio listenership is dramatically down but removing the terrestrial radio from cars would be the death knell to the medium. So, I did a little research and the news on AM (and even FM) in cars is not good.  For starters, electric motors generate radio frequency interference (RFI) in the same wavelengths as amplitude modulation (AM) signals. So, the electromagnetic noise from the electric motors would cause you to hear nothing buy static—it would be like listening to an AM station in a constant lightning storm.

BMW and Tesla are already eliminating AM radios. GM will follow, touting an in-car 4G alternative for streaming music.   

The Detroit News reports that it may not be long before AM/FM radios will disappear from all new cars. Manufacturers are focusing on smartphone integration for  music streaming.

Locally the ratings tell a struggling game: There are six AM stations in the Cedar Rapids radio market (the 204th market in the county). According to Nielsen, the most listened to AM radio station has a 4.5 rating for spring 2020; next is 1.7, followed by many half-points or hash marks.

The future is arriving faster and faster for the internet of things integration into every aspect of our lives. And it is hard for most established media to keep up.   

We all know video is the king of content creation. Video is driving more and more of internet engagement and interest.  Unfortunately, the people producing B-2-B videos did not get the memo that shorter, more succinct videos are more effective. According to research from Vidyard, the average length of business-related videos increased from 4 minutes in 2019 to longer than 6 minutes in 2020.

Many business videos are still in the 2-minute range, but the trend is not good. We are saying more to fewer and fewer people. 

The Vidyard research found that larger companies (5,000 and more) are producing much more content. The average number of large company video productions in 2020 was 1,337 (2 ½ times more than 2019). Companies with 200 to 600 employees produced an average of 557 videos.

The survey data also showed that social media, websites and YouTube were the most popular distribution channels.

So smart marketers are producing much more video in this digital age that is showing product demos, how-to, webinars and explainer videos. And if you want to compete with the biggest players, you are going to need a stockpile of video, optimized for search and engaging from the first few seconds.  Lights, camera and action. 

I think we’ve all said at one time or another, “Everyone uses the internet.” You would be partially right — like so many broad, unsubstantiated statements.

The pandemic has definitely driven up overall usage. Pew Research Center reports that 31% of U.S. adults go online “almost constantly.” 

Surprisingly, Pew (study conducted in January-February 2021) found that 7% of U.S. adults do not use the internet at all. That’s more than 23 million people, according to Mark math.

High internet usage is driven by age, high household income, where you live (urban vs. rural) and education. According to the study, one quarter of people 65+ don’t use the internet. What the survey should have done is break down the difference between people 65 and 80. At 65, if you don’t use the internet, you will have difficulty with Medicare and Social Security.

To me, this is simple survey ageism. The other age categories bridge 11 to 19 years in duration. The 65+ cohort spans 35+ years — that is only a nine-year difference from all the other age categories combined.

The Pew survey does show that the internet of things is becoming more and more a part of our lives. More than 8 in 10 U.S. adults go online at least daily (with 8% going online less than daily).

As the pandemic cools, the results may continue to show more internet usage. This trend has been growing steadily. The pandemic accelerated the trend, as if pushing the internet-of-things pedal to the floor.

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.

I bought a new, used car and I have to say, I was disappointed. I haven’t purchased a car at a dealership for more than eight years, and not a lot has changed. So that had me wondering: Is digital going to disrupt this industry, just like it has everyone else?

In quick research, I found the disruptor of all disruptors — AMAZON. Yes, Amazon is still planning to enter the car selling and buying process. The e-commerce giant has a track record of dominating nearly every vertical it expands into. Dealers may be part of the process, but we know Amazon quickly cuts out the nonefficient parts. (UPS, FedEx and USPS know what I mean. Are you seeing more Amazon vans lately?)

Carvana seems to be the model that offers the most disruption. You can sell your car and buy a car online. Plus, Carvana will pick up your old car and deliver a new one right to your home. No four to five hours of negotiating. All paperwork is done online. In fact, in 2020, Carvana sold nearly 250,000 vehicles and posted annual revenues of $5.6 billion. That makes it the second-largest used-car retailer in the U.S. Carvana’s first quarter sales of 2021 were dramatically up year over year (76% increase in units sold, 104% increase in revenue and 145% increase in total gross profit).

We are all demanding digital-first experiences, no matter the product or service. Here are a couple of ideas for the auto industry:

  1. Improve online web experience. Make it more user-focused and friendly.
  2. Take better photos of cars and trucks. Many vehicles have black interiors that need lighting.
  3. Add video tours with a tour guide of cars. Show off benefits and features. Explain all the electronics.
  4. Provide more detailed information. Use charts and graphs to compare cars. I bought a wallet online that had more information than what was included about my used car.
  5. End the car pricing game. Post it. We don’t care about “today’s price.” What is my price?
  6. Make it more fun. Carvana has a car vending machine to attract young drivers. “Spooktacular” sales with coffee, balloons and hot dogs are not fun.
  7. Understand the digital journey. Let the slick negotiators go and bring on people who know the vehicles, good customer service and provide a great experience.

Not all car buyers are going to go online to buy a car. Test driving is still a dealership advantage. Yet clinging to a status quo delivers a ho-hum experience. Speed thrills and attracts new customers. Online has the acceleration game down.

I’m hoping to buy my next car 100% online and have my new electric car drive itself to my house.

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.

I’m not sure if it was a psychology, sociology or journalism ethics class when I was introduced to the correlation vs. causation conundrum we all face. During this pandemic, correlation is often mixed with causation. It seems research has taken a back seat.

So C vs. C has been on my mind. It seems like for some time, the digital trade press was freaking out about how much time is going to mobile. Many called it the “death of desktop search.” Except throw in a pandemic and up goes the desktop search numbers. Causation or correlation? Don’t know. Need research.

And now, the story is that people have “turned away from browsing the web on their phones because they are using apps more.” Wait, what? A media distribution company I have respected for many years says, “Mobile web is already dying as people are spending more time in apps like Facebook and Twitter.” Wait, wait, what?

In this age of too much data, we have forgotten one thing: Correlation and causation are not the same thing. The book and radio blog Freakonomics is full of false or spurious cause-and-effect relationships. For the record, causation means A causes B; correlation is that A and B were observed at the same time and there may be some causation, but we don’t know that.

The fact that I spend more time on Twitter than I do searching in my browser is not related. In fact, the more efficient and accurate search becomes, the less time I’ll need to spend searching for what I want. I know a lot of people who spend a lot of time in game apps. Are those related to less time in search? Absolutely not.

I read in a blog by Chris Taylor for Wired magazine that, “If big data came in a box, it would be stamped, ‘Warning: Correlation does not imply causation.’ “ This is especially important when you are making decisions based on the data. Make sure you are not making leaps of faith based on comparing two data sets or two outcomes. Trust, but verify.

When you stop and think about our brand-saturated world, it can make your head hurt. It is estimated that we see 5,000 brand messages a day. (And who has time to count that many?) It’s brand-saturated, and we love it.

Brand to me is that little piece of property you own in a person’s mind. It is mental shorthand to help you remember something you like — or many times, dislike — about a brand. We maintain that real estate.

Many people ask me, “What is the ‘one thing’ we can do to really brand our organization?” That’s like saying, “What’s the one food you can eat to get healthy?” 

For me to get healthy I have to:

  • Eat low cholesterol food
  • Lose weight
  • Control stress
  • Take statins
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get out into nature

All of those things make me healthy.

Too many people believe in brand magic. One thing will magically brand you in the minds of your customers. Like my example of getting healthy, it is much more holistic. It’s ongoing, and it’s a commitment to being more universal.

The other issue with brand is that many believe that people can be branded like cows. If they can, let’s look at it from the cow’s perspective. Do cows like to be branded? Not the ones I’ve seen. And people react the same way when they are overbranded by an advertiser.

You really can’t burn your brand into someone’s mind. Branding must be more subtle and understatedly elegant. The person (cow) must thoroughly enjoy the experience.

No one wants to be hit over the head with a branding iron. A brand starts by thinking first of how to solve problems for people. That’s your benefit and your reason to exist.

If you see “here’s how to brand your organization in 4 easy steps,” run.