Lifetime, Scripps pitch advertisers

How do you sell TV advertising in this environment? If you’re Scripps Networks, you trumpet the product integration available in your make-over and do-it-yourself programs. You also make no bones about how difficult things are for advertisers and consumers.

At Tuesday’s Scripps upfront presentation (held at Cipriani 42nd Street), executives talked about these “very difficult and challenging times” and described viewers as “disillusioned,” “anxious,” and “frustrated.”

“There has never been a more important time than right now to reach out to viewers about their homes” said one Scripps executive.

Of course, Scripps is in a different spot than many other networks. Home to HGTV, The Food Network, DIY Network, Fine Living Network, and Great American Country, many of its shows are highly aspirational and played to an eager audience when money was flowing and houses were flying off the market.

Now the media company is betting that viewers will look to shows like “The Unsellables” or “For Rent” or “Income Property” as they trudge through the recession.

Twitter, from poor man’s email to innovation leader

He once called Twitter the poor man’s email. But to hear Google CEO Eric Schmidt today, one would be forgiven for thinking it’s the next big thing.

Schmidt’s comments on the microblogging site are picked over with the kind of meticulous care often associated with neurosurgery, simply because Twitter is often rumored to be a Google acquisition target.

On Thursday, In an apparent reversal of his earlier pooh-poohing, Schmidt declared Google to be open to some sort of advertising partnership with Twitter.

Gannett sets the tone for a tough earnings period

Let the bleeding begin. USA Today publisher Gannett kicked off earnings season for media companies this morning, posting a 60 percent drop in quarterly profit.

Here are some key points:

    Revenue fell almost 18 percent to $1.38 billion.
    Publishing ad revenue fell 34.1 percent from last year, with U.S. ad revenue down 28.2 percent and British ad revenue down 38.7 percent.
    At USA Today, ad sales fell 33.5 percent, and the number of paid advertising pages fell to 527 from 826 last year. USA Today’s paid circulation also likely will fall after Marriott International said this week that it would no longer automatically deliver the paper to its guests.

Don’t expect advertising revenue to look much better for biggest media companies as they roll out their numbers over the coming weeks. As Bernstein analyst Michael Nathanson recently pointed out in a research note, investors have been “looking past the horrid near-term trends to a happier place somewhere out on the horizon” but with earnings here “the recent run-up in media stocks will have resistance as the market realizes that recent trends are not likely to reverse any time soon.”

Keep an eye on:

    Dominos has found itself in the center of a publicity storm after two employees filmed a prank in one of its restaurant’s kitchens and posted it online (NY Times)
    ABC Entertainment Group President Stephen McPherson is under increasing pressure to produce a break-out hit (NY Post)
    Twitter is talking to big web companies about partnerships, but isn’t looking to sell itself (NY Times)
    Publicis Groupe agencies have added Hewlett-Packard’s personal systems group account in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region following a review (Adweek)

Bravo back with more housewives, fashionistas, crazies

Bravo unveiled its new TV lineup at its upfront breakfast on Tuesday– and it’s chock full of more of those grating characters and train-wreck scenarios that have proved so successful for the cable network.

At the breakfast in Manhattan’s Russian Tea Room, executives played down the recession, played up a recent New York Times article and announced that a cable network known for its unscripted shows is developing two scripted dramas, “Blueprint” and “30 under 30.”

So how is Bravo doing? Sales executive Susan Malfa said Bravo accounted for 14 of the top 15 product placements last year, added 100 new advertisers, and posted its best sales year to date. She and other Bravo executives then unveiled the cable network’s largest slate of returning shows, new shows and programs in development.

Same old song: Ad spending forecast cut yet again

So how low can it go? One percent? Three percent? Five percent? Let’s try a decline of 6.9 percent — since that’s the latest forecast for global advertising spending from ZenithOptimedia.

To the surprise of few, the agency, part of French advertising group Publicis, revised downward its outlook for 2009, predicting that only Internet ad spending now looks like it will rise for the year.

“Since we released our last forecasts in December the global ad market has taken a substantial turn for the worse,” said ZenithOptimedia. (Back then, the agency was calling for a flat market).

Making the grade: Adweek out with agency report cards

Adweek is out today with its annual ad agency report cards — and it looks like nobody took home an “A” for 2008. The trade publication covers 25 companies, picked based on size and influence. Agencies are judged on creative performance, management and revenue growth profitability (these final two factors were a challenge in 2008 for obvious reasons).

Top marks for 2008 (in this case “B+”) went to Crispin Porter + Bogusky; Goodby, Silverstein & Partners; The Martin Agency; Publicis USA; and Wieden + Kennedy.

Ogilvy and Draft FCB were handed “C-” grades. Here’s what Adweek said, in part, about Draft FCB (which, it should be noted, rang up a bit of good news last week in landing the Miller Lite account).

Look out: US online advertising seen down 5 percent

From the bearish forecast department: Screen Digest, a media research firm, issued an outlook today predicting a 5 percent decline in online advertising in 2009. Folks, we’re not talking about newspapers or network television or radio here. We’re talking about the Web.

Screen Digest put out the forecast in response to the IAB’s recent report on 2008, which showed Web advertising rose 10 percent. But the number that turned heads over at Screen Digest was IAB’s fourth quarter figure, which put online growth at a mere 2.6 percent.

Here’s what Screen Digest says:

Following the fourth quarter 2008 tipping-point, Screen Digest has revised its 2009-2010 forecasts for online advertising in the US. We now predict that all categories and subcategories except video will decline in 2009. Banner advertising (-8.8 per cent) will not be fully compensated by the double digit growth of online video, so that the Display category will be down 3.6 per cent. Search will shrink by two per cent and non-Display categories such as Classifieds will experience double digit falls. Overall, the total internet advertising market will shrink by five per cent (-4.8) in 2009 and only stabilize (+0.4 per cent) in 2010.

Baseball makes its pitch in new ad campaign

Ah spring. Opening day. Stolen bases. Hot dogs. Rain delays. Fresh baseball commercials flashing across your TV set.

Major League Baseball has just taken the wraps off its new 2009 campaign, “The is Beyond Baseball,” supported by 20 TV spots running through the World Series.The spots will run on ESPN, Fox, TBS, MLB Network and

The idea, developed by McCann Erickson, is that baseball is more than just a game; it’s part of the fabric of our culture. In trying to get that message across, the spots will play up the stories behind star players like Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants and Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Verizon launches interactive ads on FiOS

Looking to expand its options for video content,  Verizon has quietly started to emulate DVD video technology in its FiOS television system. This means that its on-demand video offerings will eventually include interactive options such as extra chapters, subtitles or files with information about the actors in a show, just like movie DVDs have offered for years.

It’s also a way for the company to offer interactive advertising, currently on display under the marketplace option in its FiOS TV service menu. So if you like a car ad, you could click on a option to see more before you buy.

And because the adverts can be made in the DVD format it means “advertising sooner, easier and cheaper,” according to Joseph Ambeault, consumer video product development director of Verizon.

How much is Google to blame for newspapers’ woes?

The Web is abuzz over Eric Schmidt’s speech on Tuesday at the Newspaper Association of America’s annual meeting in San Diego — a speech, as the New York Times points out, in which the Google leader sidestepped any controversy and instead delivered “a lengthy discourse on the importance of newspapers and the challenges and opportunities brought about by technologies like mobile phones.”

So why all the fuss? Because newspapers are in deep trouble, and Google is an easy target for blame. The web search leader is weathering the recession relatively well and some have argued that Google News is making money off the back of newspaper publishers.

As Reuters puts it, “Some journalists have complained that search engines run by Google and Yahoo Inc make millions of dollars off their news, and that it should belong to them instead.”