For the past year, every television commercial aired in New York City has been "watched"--by a computer.
Don't pity the bleary-eyed, $15-million machine. It may soon revolutionize the way the advertising world tracks itself.
The computer--which will eventually track TV commercials coast to coast--is called "Monitor Plus." It is the latest invention from A. C. Nielsen Co. of Northbrook, Ill. The famed research firm is owned by Dun & Bradstreet.
If Monitor Plus lives up to its billing, it will quickly show advertisers the precise television ad strategy of the competition. That's the ad world's equivalent of, say, the Soviet Union knowing exactly how many missiles the U.S. has aimed at it.
A handful of New York ad agencies are testing the machinery, including J. Walter Thompson U.S.A. and Ted Bates Worldwide (a Saatchi & Saatchi subsidiary). Because it is so new, Monitor Plus is not widely known in the industry. But after a national introduction scheduled in January, it may become as commonplace at ad agencies as story boards.
The premise is embarrassingly simple.
"If I sell a product," said Arthur C. Nielsen Jr. in an interview, "I know how much advertising I am doing, but I don't know exactly what my competition is doing."
But with Monitor Plus, ad agencies and major television networks--as well as cable networks--will be able to track exactly what the other guy is up to, said Nielsen, former chairman and now a board member of the firm. Not only can the computer track what commercials are being broadcast but also how frequently and at what time.
Agencies will pay from $200,000 to $400,000 annually to subscribe to the service, said James Lyons, president of Nielsen Media Research Group. "All the major television networks have already stated interest."
It is ad agencies, however, that are expected to be especially intrigued by the new gadgetry.
Among them is J. Walter Thompson. "In the past, we've had no way to continuously measure advertising," said Bob Warrens, vice president. "That has been one of our largest sources of error." But no more. And the agency will also use the service as an auditing tool--to make sure TV spots run as ordered. Until now, agencies have mostly relied on far-less scientific methods.
One New York operation, Broadcast Advertisers Reports Inc., provides a similar service, but only one week per month. And instead of using machines to watch the commercials, it hires people.
"Our humans are more accurate than any machine you'll ever find," insists Jerry Grady, president of Broadcast Advertisers. But as a result of oncoming competition from Monitor Plus, the company plans to nearly double the markets that it serves next year.
With Monitor Plus, said Nielsen, "Maxwell House will finally be able to know if Folger's is outspending them."
Don't hold your breath waiting for Ed Jaymes to reply when Frank Bartles spins those folksy yarns. The closed-mouthed, co-star of the Bartles & Jaymes TV commercials will not be uttering even a "Thanks for your support." That's the word from Hal Riney, chairman of Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco. The firm created the wildly successful--but fictional--wine cooler duet.
Glendale Fed Laces Up
Toe-to-toe competition in the savings and loan industry has turned the race for new business into a track meet. Now, in a $14-million ad campaign, Glendale Federal Savings & Loan is literally lacing up for the next heat.
On Monday, most of the S&L;'s 4,000 employees began showing up for work in employer-supplied tennis shoes. That's right: jackets, ties--and tennies.
The gimmick--which will continue through the end of the month--is part of a television, radio and print campaign that places special emphasis on the bank's personal service. The theme: "When you say jump, we say how high?"
"The more you read, the more you find out that no one really likes their financial institution," said Norman M. Coulson, president and chief executive of the nation's fifth-largest S&L.; "We want to give customers a reason to like us."
A series of four commercials, created by Los Angeles-based Davis, Johnson, Mogul & Colombatto Advertising Inc., speaks directly to the issue of customer service.
One commercial shows a hunk of a loan officer racing a veritable triathlon through his branch office to tell a client that his loan was approved
The bank also promises to tote auto loan papers to customers who can't leave work. In one commercial, spokeswoman Dinah Shore hits the beach to personally hand a lifeguard his papers.
The bank spent $80,000 on the Korean-made Kaepa shoes. And after the promotion ends, Coulson said, employees need not slip back into their wing-tips or high-heels. "Tennis shoes are OK," he said, "as long as the guys still wear coats and ties."
More Enquiring Minds
Get ready for the National Enquirer to pitch itself like McDonald's hypes hamburgers.
Eager to shed its image as a newspaper with several bureaus on Mars, the Enquirer has hired Lois Pitts Gershon Pon/GGK, New York, as the new ad agency to handle its planned $20-million campaign. The Enquirer dumped Wells, Rich, Greene, the New York firm that concocted the 5-year-old slogan, "Enquiring minds want to know."
"People have an image of the Enquirer that's not right," said Iain Calder, president and editor of the Lantana, Fla.-based newspaper. He said the new ad campaign would likely focus on the new emphasis of Enquirer: the "heroic achievements" of individual Americans.
Although the paper enjoys a weekly circulation of 4.5 million, circulation has been relatively flat the past two years, Calder said, and "we want to sell more papers."
Calder refused to release many details of the upcoming campaign, which is just now being devised. It will focus on TV advertising, he said, and include a yet-to-be-announced new slogan.
Ads Outside the Apple
A sudden surge of advertising talent has been budding in cities whose names don't begin with "New" and end with "York."
For years, New York agency executives treated these "outside" agencies with about as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield gets from his wife. But a few years ago, these upstart outsiders won a few ad awards.
Now, they're winning awards like the Chicago Bears win football games.
Tonight, for the first time ever, six of the nation's hottest "out-of-town" agencies will exhibit their work together in New York--at the Art Directors Club.
Those chosen by the club: Fallon McElligott of Minneapolis; Leonard Monahan Saabye of Providence, R.I.; Martin Agency of Richmond, Va.; McKinney Silver & Rockett of Raleigh, N.C.; Richards Group of Dallas, and Livingston & Co. of Seattle.
"There's a natural animosity," said Richard Livingston, president of Livingston & Co., "but it is possible to get great advertising outside New York, Chicago and Los Angeles."
One Livingston ad on display features a close-up of a belligerent-looking sea bass. The ad, created for the Seattle Aquarium, has a headline that reads: "See How the Other Two-Thirds Lives."
With this exhibition, that's exactly what the New York firms will be seeing.