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We'll Be Right Back: John Patrick Talks Olympic Advertising

Editor's note: John Patrick of Danbury, a former Ridgefield resident, is an Internet pioneer, healthcare expert, and former Vice President of Internet Technology at IBM. His third book, Election Attitude will be available in print and Kindle in August. In this post, John talks advertising and the Olympics. Learn more about Patrick here. 


 

It was a privilege to be able to be at the opening ceremony In Atlanta (1996), Nagano (1998), and Sydney (2000). The ceremonies get more extravagant each year and you have to wonder how they are going to top it the following year. The Atlanta Olympic Games was the beginning of e-business for IBM. A member of our team built an experimental “ticket server” to see if we could actually sell tickets to the Games online. At the time, 1995, it was the largest e-commerce site on the Internet. The first commercial customer for the technology followed later that year — it was L.L. Bean.

The athletes who compete to win or lose by a small fraction of a second are truly incredible and a tribute to their countries. The other thing about the Olympic Games that gets more incredible each year is the advertising. Some tell me I am in the minority on the issue, but I think the advertising is over the top. When is enough enough?

It is clear to me NBC has one priority, advertising revenue. Athletes, consumers, and viewers are second priority. A race can be seconds from ending when the video cuts over to an ad. If you watch the Olympics on a mobile device, you will frequently see, “Coverage Will Resume Shortly”. That means they have not sold as many ads as for live TV and have nothing else to show. Dead time. An analysis of the programming would likely show the following as the most repeated phrases during the Games.

√ Coming up
√ We’ll be right back
√ When we come back
√ After the break
√ Right after this
√ Stay with us

Years ago I had the privilege of sitting next to Bob Costas at a dinner. What a nice and impressive man. He looks much younger than his now 64 years. When I heard him say on TV, “stay with us”, it seemed he was inwardly saying “I know you have already seen these ads dozens of times and could recite them word for word, and I also know you are likely going to the kitchen or lavatory while they are playing even though consultants who “measure” viewers are telling the advertisers how many millions of people are “watching”.

Producers, like publishers, have to be compensated for what they produce. The question is how do consumers pay? One way is to watch two hours of Olympic Games and an hour of droning advertisements, like today. Another model is to pay a fee per view. Instead of watching three hours of Olympic Games with ads from 7 to 10 on channel X, you pay $2.99 and watch the two hours of Olympic Games from 8 to 10 on channel Y. For 99 cents you watch the 6 PM news at 6:20 and get 100% news. Another model might be, if you are willing to provide some personal preferences, you get the full hour including the ads but the ads are tailored to things relevant to you based on your profile. I would call giving consumes a choice of various options an advertising attitude. 

This is beginning to sound like a new book, Advertising Attitude, but first things first. Election Attitude will be joining Net Attitude and Health Attitude in about a week.

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