9 Predictions on the Future of TV


By Rob Schnapp – Executive Creative Director, Coyne Agency

If you get the reference to the title of this piece, than you’ve no doubt seen lots of changes in TV. Here is where I see TV headed in the not-too-remote future:

  • Second screen viewing will be the norm for everyone, not just the easily distracted. Smartphones and tablets will be synced with our TV (or whatever we decide to call our first screen).
  • E-commerce integration to browse and buy wardrobe and props from a show with a simple tap of our second screen or voice command. It can be pinned to a Pinterest board. Or better yet, right to a shopping cart on Amazon Prime Time. If Mr. Bezos hasn’t coined that yet, remember, you read it here first.
  • IMDB integration so we can instantly get cast and crew information for any scene with a simple tap of our 2nd screen or voice command. Opt in for preferences that either gives you an overlay (a la “Pop Up Video”) or bookmarks it for later. The latter is better for uninterrupted viewing.
  • Deeper content with second screen. What if we could follow storylines of secondary characters? For example, if you’re watching a show like “Downton Abbey,” you may be curious to see what Mrs. Patmore is up to. Choose to watch her cook and get her recipe for Yorkshire pudding.
  • When watching sports, you can choose from a variety of camera angles. Perhaps you want to view the game from a hockey goalie’s point of view. You may want to see what is happening on your team’s bench. It’s up to you to customize your viewing experience. Too much to think about? Of course you can just choose the default broadcast.
  • Choose your preferred commentators. Today, a game is broadcast in different cities (home and away) with different announcers. In the future, you’ll be able to listen to the commentators of your choice. In fact, you may prefer to have no commentators at all and just listen to the sounds of the game and the crowd. Or you can subscribe to any superfan’s live play-by-play.
  • While I believe commercial breaks will still exist, I don’t think every sponsored program will have them. We will see embedded advertising that never cuts away from a show. Ads will play within a show’s environment (like on the TV in a sitcom family’s home or on the characters’ devices). This will be called naTiVe advertising.
  • TV will watch you and therefore deliver more relevant advertising. It will know who is watching and what their preferences are. No dogs in the house? No dog food ads. Does someone in your house have a severe peanut allergy? Your TV will skip the Skippy ads. TV advertising will be as targeted as today’s retargeted display ads.
  • TV will not only watch you, but TV will watch over you. Fitbit will have a feature called Unfitbit, which will remind couch potatoes and binge watchers to get up and take some much needed steps. Maybe we can even power the TV with a treadmill.

The future of TV is bright but with plenty of contrast from today. While I still hope Smellevision comes to fruition, I’m not holding my breath.
This piece originally appeared in The Holmes Report


Can Computers Replace Human Creativity?


There’s been a lot written about Artificial Intelligence over the last few years. As a fan of Isaac Asimov novels, I’m absolutely fascinated by this subject. Plus I’m one of the few people who actually like Spielberg’s movie “A.I.”

All those great books and movies show a time in the future when artificial intelligence not only goes mainstream, but experiences backlash from the human population. This has everything to do with jobs.

Imagine being replaced by a robot. It happened during the industrial revolution when factory workers were replaced with machines. It’s not hard to see that many jobs can be done with artificial intelligence. That includes the advertising industry. Media planners and buyers may be the first casualties.

But the title of this piece is Artificial Stupidity. That’s where I come in. I’m on the creative side of the business.

Perhaps it’s arrogance, but I don’t see how a machine can do my job. My job is stupid. And I mean that in a really good way. It’s the job of Creatives (with a capital C) to look at things in a different way. There’s no science to what we do. Data can and should influence our thinking. It helps us make intelligent strategic decisions. Yet when I face the blank page armed with a creative brief, I am not mining through scientific data. No, I’m staring out the window as my mind flips through my brain’s database of music trivia and Seinfeld quotes.

It’s hard to explain how it works. There is a discipline to the craft. But we make it up as we go along. It’s jazz. It’s improv. It’s A.D.D. Oh look, a cat! Sorry. Where was I?

Oh right. My point was until machines are programmed with Artificial Stupidity, there is a need for creative people to do creative work. Good thing scientists and mathematicians have more important things to tackle than new and improved ads.

– Rob Schnapp

Ancient Ad Remains


One of the very first accounts I worked on (many, many years ago) was Panasonic. They had a full time out-of-home presence on the Lincoln Tunnel helix. On my morning commute into NYC last week, I had a glimpse into the past.

There, where Panasonic ads used to reside, was a semi-naked billboard awaiting new creative. The above picture is the remains of an old Palmcorder ad. I guess ‘old’ is redundant. When was the last time you heard the word ‘Palmcorder’ (let alone ‘Camcorder’)?

It was only half a generation ago when dads would be seen at youth soccer games and school talent shows taping their kids. Yes, taping. And they probably never even watch them because the tapes are either lost or just a pain to convert to DVD. Oh wait, DVDs are dead too.

In contrast, the ads above the Lincoln Tunnel which face the Palmcorder relic, promote the photo prowess of the latest iPhone.

iPhone ads Lincoln Tunnel

These days, rather than just a handful of dads, we see moms, dads, brothers, sisters, friends and grandparents recording almost anything and everything – all the time. Taping? Filming? Recording? Capturing? Whatever you call it, practically everyone is doing it. It’s in everyone’s hands. It’s easy. It’s ubiquitous.

Do these iPhone ads even recognize their ancestor across the helix?

The tagline for Panasonic used to be “Just slightly ahead of our time.” There’s nothing ‘slightly’ about innovation at Apple. But I can’t help but wonder how long it will be for today’s iPhone to look ancient in comparison to the next generation of technology (likely created by Apple). Then these ads above the tunnel will seem quaint.

Of course by then, the tunnel itself could seem quaint as we commute across the river in our hovercrafts. Or maybe we’ll just beam ourselves to work. Let me know when there’s an app for that.

– Rob Schnapp

Steve Jobs on the Creative Process

I’m a sucker for any discussion about The Creative Process. I love books by musicians and filmmakers about their craft. The Creative Process is so much more than just coming up with ideas. It’s about bringing a creative vision to fruition with collaborators while dodging the naysayers as well as dealing with realities and hurdles.

While browsing Netflix recently, I came across an interview with Steve Jobs from the mid 90’s. There was one section that really resonated with me. He calls it a disease to believe that creativity is mostly about an idea. Execution is critical.


Rob Schnapp

Point-of-Purchase Fail

One of my PR colleagues told me this: “With advertising, you pay. With PR, you pray.” Well unfortunately, the ad folks may need to do some praying. Or better yet, some of the marketing channels better do some paying back. A recent visit to my local ShopRite fueled my argument for integrated marketing.

As I was strolling down the ice-cream aisle, I noticed a Chips Ahoy promotion. Something like: Buy 2 Chips Ahoy and get a free carton of Friendly’s Ice Cream. Pretty cool. As I inspected a few of the new Chips Ahoy varieties such as peanut butter (hmm…) and banana (eek…) I noticed something oddly disturbing. To clarify, I found it disturbing as an advertising professional. These Chips Ahoy cookies were in a lovely, free-standing, end-of-aisle display which was branded with, and obviously paid for by, Pepperidge Farm.

Point of Purchase Fail

I’m quite sure there were marketing meetings at Pepperidge Farm in which in-store strategies were discussed. “Should we do in-store displays?” “What will it cost?” “Let’s get our people working on this.” “The retailers are excited to work with us!” And maybe, just maybe, other marketing efforts had their budgets slashed in order to fund this Point-of-Purchase effort.

This is why we do integrated marketing. We look for a good mix of earned, owned and paid in multiple channels. For example, we don’t just run a print ad once. Even if it’s in the most widely circulated publication, it could end up running the same week when the world’s attention is elsewhere. Multiple runs. Multiple touch points. Multiple impressions. Throw numerous darts at the target.

Obviously Pepperidge Farm won’t crumble from this one incident. They know the value of 360 marketing. Their tagline is “Good is in the details.” However, it’s obvious that the folks at ShopRite are not quite as detail oriented.

If you have a brand with a modest budget, you still need to integrate. You may use fewer channels. But putting all your eggs in one basket can get messy with just one little slip.

– Rob Schnapp

PS: Alternate title for this post was ShopRong

She’s a guy and she tweets.

Jake from State Farm

What started out as a pretty straight forward :30 commercial assignment, raise awareness that State Farm Insurance reps are available 24 hours, has lived well beyond the 31st second. The concept is classic sitcom with a simple misunderstanding. The script has 0 fat. Every word belongs there. Kudos to the creative team. But it didn’t end there.

The direction and casting nail it. The Vince Vaughn-looking husband plays it so straight, not looking for any laughs. Usually these husband and wife spots feature the smart wife and the dopey husband. Here’s an advertiser willing to make the wife look dumb – in a good way.

But the big star of the spot is the guy who appears for about one second. Jake. From State Farm. The biggest win for the brand is the line everyone remembers and repeats: “Jake. From State Farm.” So rare for a brand to have its name become repeatable. I’m guessing everyone involved is surprised by this. The spot is actually titled “State of Unrest.” They probably would’ve been satisfied if just that stuck. It has “State” in it which is half their name!

For comparison, the classic “Where’s The Beef?” line for Wendy’s has been misattributed at times. And the line they thought was going to catch on was “Fluffy Buns.”

Sometimes things just fall into place. This spot runs again and again and is always welcome. Kind of like watching the same “Big Bang Theory” or “Modern Family” episode for the gazillionth time.

In my most recent welcome encounter with this spot, I noticed a small super on the screen (not in the above clip). No, not a hashtag. That’s so yesterday. No, I saw a Twitter handle for @JakeStateFarm. So of course I just had to check it out and follow.

Fictional Twitter accounts can be great. I enjoy following some of the Mad Men characters living in their earlier era. And I get a kick out of spur of the moment accounts that pop up. Hats are big. Such as @PharrellHat and for New York Rangers fans, @TheBroadwayHat. And as far as branded accounts go, the @AflacDuck quacks me up. (sorry). Plus there’s also Progressive’s Flo.

The good ones don’t use Twitter as a heavy sell to “consumers” but rather a place to engage with people. Oh and they just happen to be part of a brand.

It’s also no coincidence that State Farm, Aflac and Progressive are insurance companies doing something engaging and creative. I give the credit for creative insurance companies to GEICO. Well actually, The Martin Agency who proved insurance advertising doesn’t have to be as dull as insurance.

Clearly all these ads must be working because, trust me, the actuaries at these companies would recognize bad ROI and yank them off the air.

Score one for the creative people who dressed Jake in khakis while probably wearing jeans when they wrote it.


Ice Bucket Mania


By now, you’ve seen countless Ice Bucket Challenge videos and likely soaked yourself as well. This is the most fun a lot of us have had on Facebook since its inception. It’s a shared experience. And it’s for a good cause.

The exposure for ALS research has been incredible. Even if a small fraction of participants actually donate money, they have achieved gazillions of dollars worth of free publicity. But the fact is, as of this writing, over $45million has been raised since the Ice Bucket Challenge began.

It was fun to see my kids take part. I had fun shooting their videos and sharing with friends. And then my daughter challenged me – which I gladly accepted.

As with any trend that goes mainstream, there’s always a handful of naysayers and critics. Some complained of wasted water. Others said that this is not just supposed to be ALS, but the charity of your choice.

One of my Facebook friends posted this:
I don’t get it, how about screw the ice and just everyone donate 100 dollars to the cause, or even 200.00??? Maybe I’m missing something? 

He received a bunch of likes and several cynical comments that agreed with him. But lots of other friends jumped in and told him what he was missing.

My reply:
The awareness of the challenge has helped raise over $45million. It made the cause not only top of mind but participatory. A marketing home run.

Something that I found pretty cool was not only seeing the videos but actually hearing the voices of Facebook friends whom I haven’t actually seen in person in decades. It was a real glimpse into their lives beyond the usual photos and TBT’s. How soon before our ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos become our TBT’s? Will there be another surge of donations?

– Rob Schnapp (yes, I donated)

Actually there is an “i” in TEAM and that’s a good thing.

We’ve all heard that “There is no “i” in team.” This updated variation which finds the “i” hidden in the the “a-hole” has been making its way around on social media recently. And while it’s funny, it’s not really true. Your team needs an “i” in fact it needs plenty of them.

the i in team

A team is a collection of individuals coming together for a shared purpose. Just remember that ‘Winning Team’ has more i’s than ‘Losing Team.’ Here are some of the important i’s in team:

I care about my team’s success.
I will do whatever it takes to help my team.
I want to contribute to my team’s success.
I will step up and take on that extra task for my team.
I trust my teammates.
I value my teammates.
I will help any teammate who is struggling.
I applaud the efforts of my teammates.
I appreciate how my team supports my efforts.
I am proud of my team.

I bet you can think of more.

– Rob Schnapp (there’s no “i” in Rob Schnapp)

Embellishment is a penalty in hockey. What about in advertising?

While watching the NHL playoffs (Go Rangers!!), I have to chuckle when a sport that allows fighting sends a player to the penalty box for embellishment. That’s right. Embellishment. No, I’m not embellishing. That’s what the penalty for bad acting is called. Players aren’t allowed to take a dive to make it seem like they’ve been tripped or hit in the face with a stick. Hockey may be brutal but it still values honesty and integrity.

NHL ref

I wish advertising were as strict. Of course there are times when a brand gets penalized for deceptive advertising. But not enough. Maybe that’s why we ad folk are often lumped with lawyers and used car salesmen as the least trustworthy professionals.

As a practitioner of persuasion, I look for the most compelling and creative way to make an argument on behalf of a brand. However there is a line I will not cross. The truth. I’ve never worked at McCann but I’m a big believer in their motto “Truth Well Told.”

Truth in advertising shouldn’t be the exception. In fact I don’t think it is. But I do have a big problem with deceptive ads. When I see half a TV screen filled with tiny text for two seconds pretending to be a legal disclaimer, I call shenanigans. I’ve made many commercials and often have to include “legal.”

So how do these advertisers get away with this? The ads in question are often for schlocky car dealerships or sketchy lenders. Are the networks who run these ads just glad to sell their inventory and willing to look the other way?

My clients have always been on the up and up and insist we make the type large enough (measured by scan lines) with enough screen time to read it. Whenever the aesthetic integrity of the commercial is in question, I offer edits so that we can accommodate the lawyers and my art director eye. Whenever a client asks to include a claim that requires a lot of disclaimer, I try to dissuade them. Why give the audience any reason to doubt you? More often than not, the clients take my advice.

It’s sad that I’m an ad guy who goes into a car dealership believing that the price I saw advertised is pretty much false. If I read it really, really, carefully (while squinting) the tiny type MAY inform me that I can indeed have that low monthly price IF I put down a ton of money AND I’m a recent college grad who is ALSO in the military AND a repeat customer who DOESN’T need to drive more than 10,000 miles per year AND doesn’t mind a standard transmission in the ONE vehicle that MAY be in stock in a color that doesn’t appeal to me.

Hey I’m all for rewarding loyal customers, recent college grads and especially our military. And I  also understand the need for the dealer to incentivize left over stock. But just say that up front. Don’t bury it to lure me in. Because when I show up, I’ve got a chip on my shoulder.

Don’t believe what you can’t read. People should make it their goal to check the facts before buying anything.

Please note I used the words “goal” and “check” in that last sentence in a lame attempt to somehow bring this back to hockey. True statement.

– Rob Schnapp

What is SPAM’s ROI?

Spam from Hormel

We all get so much SPAM every day that I have to wonder if spammers get any ROI. Of course you know that I’m not talking about the meat from the folks at Hormel. But rather junk emails and phishing expeditions.

I’m just curious. Does ANYBODY actually click on these bogus emails that manage to slip through the spam filters? You don’t need to be a grammar or spelling snob to notice how poorly crafted these messages can be. Okay, maybe “crafted” gives them too much credit. But then I can’t blame the gentleman from the Nigerian consulate for his subpar writing in a second language when he’s asking for my bank account info to help him out of a jam. But seriously, if “he” is sending this out to ten million people, is he getting any response? If can’t fathom it. But I’m guessing these things must work a little bit. Even if 0.0001% of recipients fall for it, it’s probably a win for the spammers.

Now back to the folks at Hormel for a moment. I don’t have any inside information on this but I’d say that they are brilliant for not trying to remove the trademarked word Spam from the Yahoos and Googles of the world. Think about how many times their brand is mentioned every day. If your philosophy is that “no publicity is bad publicity” then their ROI is through the roof. Actually there was no actual investment. Just restraint.

Best product placement ever as long as you don’t mind the negative association. Free media. Ya gotta love it.

– Rob Schnapp