Author Archives: elizabethfurlong1

Media Spotlight: Elizabeth Furlong, Junior Media Buyer

elizabethEditor’s note: “Media Spotlight” is an ongoing series where we interview the wide range of professionals that make up our growing office. From the traditional media planners to our digital buyers, you’ll gain insight into the many levels that make up Media Works Ltd. This week we interview Junior Media Buyer, Elizabeth Furlong

How long have you been working in media/ advertising? 3 years – I was an advertising major in college and knew I wanted to get into media planning as soon as I graduated!

Can you describe a day in your life at Media Works? A good day or a bad day? (Just kidding!) We tend to make most of our buys on a quarterly basis, so the month before a quarter begins – December, March, June, September – is always a crazy time because we’ve just gotten budgets and are spending lots of time making phone calls, negotiating rates, placing orders, and tweaking dates. During periods that are not so hectic, we have more time to spend researching industry trends for our clients, investigating new media platforms, and holding brainstorming sessions. Billing and paperwork, trafficking creative to the correct outlets, and iced coffee are things that pretty much stay the same for me each day.

What’s your all-time favorite ad campaign? What made it special?

A few years ago, Ogilvy did a series of ads for Dove (“Evolution” and “Onslaught”) which drew attention to some of the issues with the way the beauty and cosmetic industries target girls and women. It’s a really interesting campaign and I liked the fact that Ogilvy and Dove highlighted an issue associated with advertising, through advertising. It goes to show that sometimes you just need to fight fire with fire.

What advice would you offer to someone looking to get into the advertising industry?

Get internships and try to get a better understanding of what part of the industry you want to be in. Do you like working with big concepts or are you more of a numbers and details person? Do you like working with people and shaking hands on a daily basis or are you more of a behind-the-scenes, “make-it-happen” person? There’s no right or wrong answer but it definitely helps to know when looking for jobs and going on interviews. I learned a lot about this working on group projects in college and that really helped me.

What’s something that no one knows about you?

I entered college as a biology major, and thought I wanted to be a doctor.

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CBS – Time Warner Blackout Update

If you’re a Time Warner Cable customer living in New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, or several other major markets, you probably noticed your channel options for most of this week did not include CBS. The two communications giants have been disputing network fees and the valuation of CBS programming, which has resulted in a blackout of CBS programming in eight different markets. As retaliation, CBS blocked TWC internet users from CBS.com material. In short, if you’re a TWC customer in one of these markets hoping to catch the PGA championship this weekend, you may be out of luck.

This disagreement underscores the larger issue of the increasingly blurry lines between one media entity and another. The way today’s media landscape is controlled is largely a result of isolated chronological events. First there were broadcast TV stations, which established an advertiser-based revenue model. Simple enough.

Then, cable TV boxes came along, which function on both subscriber revenues and advertising dollars. If your home receives cable, your cable box also provides the over-the-air channels that non-cable homes receive for free (which is how TWC is able to cut off CBS from customers).

Finally, in the Internet age, we have even more subscriber-based options – such as Hulu and Netflix – in addition to streaming options, which can have any of these revenue models. In other words, you could be watching an ABC show on Netflix, through your Time Warner Cable internet connection. If you’re not confused yet, try deciding who you think really owns that transaction and who should be given the biggest piece of the pie.

I’m not sure, but apparently neither are CBS or Time Warner. TWC’s proposed solution earlier this week was to offer CBS as an option to customers “a la carte,” which is an interesting idea but to me would only be fair if all stations were offered that way (CBS promptly rejected the offer).

It’s always frustrating when consumers must suffer as a result of disagreements at the corporate level, and it seems a bit juvenile that both companies appear to be showing the other whose boss by slashing the options consumers are paying for (apparently without a deduction in their bills). I hope for the sake of millions of customers that the issue can be resolved soon. If not, there’s always the other 200 channels…

The Super Bowl According to Facebook

Earlier this week, while perusing every ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and NFL-related blog article I could find (hey, it’s not every week your hometown team makes the Super Bowl!), I came across some fascinating information regarding NFL loyalties as measured by Facebook “likes.”

Facebook’s Data Science team released this nationwide analysis of NFL team “likes,” color-coding every county in the U.S. to reflect the team that had the most fans in that particular county. Take a look:

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Source: Facebook Data Science (https://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-data-science/nfl-fans-on-facebook/10151298370823859)

As media professionals, we evaluate numerous sports-related proposals in many different markets. Though in some cases, sports associations are obvious “no-brainers” based on geography, it is not always clear cut. For example, Media Works places media in both Dallas and Houston, and I have always wondered how rest of the state of Texas cheers come football season – at what point between Dallas and Houston does the tide change? The Cowboys have been around much longer than the Texans, so I figured they’d have a slightly higher fan base … but look at all that Cowboy land! Not only does nearly all of Texas root for Dallas, but nearly all of New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas do too.

According to the summary, over 35 million Facebook users have “liked” an NFL team page, and the number grows each year during the playoffs. In the media world, where data is a huge factor in making media-based decisions, sample size can be very important. A pool like that showing so many states where Cowboy loyalty dominates is a dream come true!

The author also provides maps showing remaining teams through each round of the playoffs. Below is a preview of how the country will be cheering this Sunday for the Super Bowl. Looks like the Ravens are the underdogs, but I hope the East Coast ends up happier than the West Coast!

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My 2012 Preakness Attendance: Odds are Slim to None

I’ve lived in Baltimore for 17 years and I’ve never been to the Preakness Stakes. I know, I know. I’m basically a traitor to the state of Maryland. Over the years I’ve had a few opportunities but it seems there was always something standing in the way – in high school my parents probably wouldn’t allow me to go, and in later years I would blame expense, lack of transportation, heat and humidity, or any other number of small factors. But in all honesty these were mostly excuses I used rather than real barriers to my attendance. The truth of the matter is that any one of these factors alone would never have prevented me from going if I really wanted to go… I’ve just never really wanted to go.

I’d like to first state that I consider myself to be a fun-loving person who enjoys getting out and doing things. My friends and I plan our weekends around concerts, outdoor festivals, vineyards, restaurants, and more. We get big groups together, document our excursions with pictures which we then post on our social networking sites, and spend money on food and drinks. We’re old enough to have jobs and salaries but young enough to spend a Saturday afternoon drinking beer outside without worrying about children or other responsibilities. In other words, we are a prime demographic the event managers should be targeting.

But I’m still not entirely sure what the Preakness is about, and I suppose that’s why I’ve never felt particularly compelled to experience it. I get a sense that over the years the event planners have been somewhat guilty of attempting to make Preakness all things to all people, and this combined with a disjointed and bizarre ad campaign have confused me to the point that I’d rather stay at home than risk wasting a whole Saturday on it. Sure, it’s a horse race, and I know that there is the option to wear a fancy hat and go sit in the grandstand. From what I’ve gathered though, that’s not really what the race is known for. If you want to have a classy afternoon sipping mint juleps, go to the Derby. If you want to wear jean shorts and dodge intoxicated patrons hurling trash at you, go to the Preakness. A simple Google image search of “Preakness” yields more results of people dancing on top of port-a-potties than it does actual horses.

Further confusing my understanding of the event is its marketing campaign. The mascot for the past few years, a horse named Kegasus, is cheesy and juvenile but at least confirms my belief that the event is about beer and debauchery foremost (and also has something to do with horses). But this year I heard radio ads featuring a leprechaun and the Easter Bunny telling me to come to Preakness to see Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa. Um, what? Now it’s a concert? And the Easter Bunny is going to be there? Do you see why I’m a little confused?

Additionally, while mud and kegs are not really my thing, I’d be willing to step outside my comfort zone if I thought it would be a safe and fun experience. I’ve heard first-hand horror stories of friends getting hit in the head with flying objects (read: beer cans), being pushed into puddles of mud and human waste, having phones and wallets stolen, and more. I’m aware that the planners attempted to improve the infield experience several years ago by eliminating the BYOB factor, but I don’t necessarily believe this is the solution. More security and cleaning crews throughout the day is a better place to start. Perhaps the money spent on recruiting Wiz Khalifa to perform would be better spent on this?

If I was in charge of marketing, I’d get rid of the silly characters and provide a clearer message of what the event actually is. They could stay with the party theme, but highlight improved safety and convenience features for those who choose to enjoy the infield. The campaign doesn’t need to be “serious” but if the creative is going to come from a humor angle it should at least be witty. Additionally, I’m shocked that marketers haven’t capitalized on the historical and regional legacy of the Preakness to promote the event, promoting it as a “don’t miss” spectacle that the area prides itself on. Take a note from the aforementioned Kentucky Derby: horses aside, a unique cultural experience that happens once a year in a specific place sells better and generates more press than a debaucherous infield party.

As of this moment, however, my odds of attending are still slim to none. The Preakness has a lot of potential, but I’m simply just not sold on it yet.

Back To The 90’s

Two years ago, some friends and I were planning a party and we decided that – since it was 2009 and almost a decade into the twenty-first century – enough time had finally passed that we could throw a 90’s-themed party. We wore MC Hammer pants, decorated the house with beanie babies, and danced the night away to boy band music. Needless to say, the party was a smashing success. The highlight of the evening, though, was when a friend brought over his DVD of the first season of “Doug,” and we paused the music so everyone could reminisce in the cartoon drama of everyone’s favorite junior high-schooler.

Every generation looks upon the television shows of their childhood with nostalgia, and the children of the 90’s are no different. As silly or juvenile as the programs might have been, there’s something strangely comforting about watching a show you haven’t seen in ten years and remembering all the characters and plotlines. It also builds a sense of camaraderie amongst you and your peers, as you realize how similar your viewing habits must have been when you were 8-year-olds.

It was therefore with great delight that I read recently that TeenNick (a subsidiary of Nickelodeon, the channel on which “Doug” originally ran) would begin airing re-runs of some of my favorite Nick shows from back in the day. Along with “Doug,” the network is going to air old episodes of “Clarissa Explains It All,” “All That,” and “Kenan & Kel” from 12 AM to 4 AM on weeknights. The program block, called “The 90’s Are All That,” began airing this week, and the results are in (click here for results) – not only did the ratings during that block of programming double compared to the same week last year, but the online activity and social media mentions of the network spiked. Never underestimate the viewing power of twenty-somethings.

Now that all my favorite classics are back on TV, my only challenge will be staying up late enough to watch them…

Rethinking How We Get Our News

It’s no secret that the internet has drastically changed the way many Americans get their news. Many newspapers have online editions, while television stations allow viewers to watch newscasts online and update headlines on their websites in real time.

One of the most interesting developments to me, however, has been the way Twitter – and, to a lesser extent, Facebook – have become the primary source of local and national news for millions of people. While the two sites promote themselves as “social networking” sites, both are in a sense hosting thousands of watercooler conversations simultaneously, and word spreads quickly.

Looking back to 2001, I can recall that on September 11th, a plane struck the first of the Twin Towers at 8:46 a.m. When my middle school finally decided to make an announcement at almost noon, each student in my 25-person algebra class was shocked. It’s hard to remember a world without Twitter and smart phones, but I guarantee you that nowadays, no news story of that magnitude would be possible to shield from a group of eighth graders for longer than a few minutes.

And journalists are catching on.  A recent New York Times article explains how a senior strategist at NPR transformed his personal Twitter account into a minute-by-minute stream of events gathered from various sources, which together created a sort of live feed centered solely on the recent developments in Egypt and Tunisia. One of the advantages the article points to is the author’s questioning of his sources; he challenges followers to tweet back with confirmations and fact-checks.

But what are the disadvantages? Obviously, anyone can write anything, and not everything will be correct. Many a rumor both true and false has gotten its start on Facebook, Twitter, or a similar site. Furthermore, 142-character “reader’s digests” of news stories can lead to limited and/or biased interpretations of stories and events.

I’m very curious to see how over the next few years, various media channels react to the social-media-as-news-outlet phenomenon. I can’t really see it ever taking over, say, the evening news or a credible newspaper as a widely accepted source, but it is certainly a trend worth keeping an eye on.