NBC: Local ads bad, Silverman fine, and Rainbow is no-go

zucker1.jpgGeneral Electric’s problems – it warned yesterday that turmoil in the global credit markets could drive profit down as much as 12 percent — have once more put the spotlight on its media unit, NBC Universal.

Forever, it seems, media observers and Wall Street bankers have been talking about whether or not NBC should be sold by majority-owner GE. For its part, GE and its leadership — most notably CEO Jeff Immelt — repeatedly respond that NBC isn’t going anywhere.

As The Hollywood Reporter points out, GE’s latest troubles have nothing to do with NBC.  The article reports that Immelt called NBC a “great media franchise” during his rounds yesterday.

During a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Immelt was asked three times if he would spin off GE Capital, prompting him to quip later on CNBC: “At least it took over from, ‘Are we going to spin out NBC?’ “

That’s not to say that NBC isn’t facing challenges of its own.  NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker told a conference on Friday that local TV stations have been profoundly impacted by the economic downturn, according to Reuters.

Coke, IBM, Microsoft rank as top brands

coke.jpgMedia consultant Interbrand has issued a new study about the hottest brands in the world — and tech and media companies put on a strong showing.

Coca-Cola took the top spot in the agency’s 2008 study, which probably isn’t surprising given its famous ad campaigns and the countless red-and-white cans of Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, etc. sold every day around the world.

IBM came in second, followed by Microsoft, General Electric, and Nokia. Intel also cracked the top 10. And the two biggest movers this year were Google, which jumped 10 spots to No. 10, and Apple, which jumped 9 spots to No. 24.

Yahoo! Yahoo gets a makeover

yahoo1.jpg Yahoo is about to make a radical change to its home page — mostly trying to make it a more personal experience. It begins testing the page, on a small basis, today, Reuters reports.

For any of you out there who get a chance to play around with it, let us know what you think.

For the moment, here’s what were looking at…

The new home page relies on slick personalization technology that allows users who have signed into their Yahoo account to see when new information arrives not just on Yahoo sites, like e-mail or news, but off-Yahoo on sites such as eBay Inc’s auctions or Google Inc’s Gmail service.

From weird to weirder, Microsoft has Gates do the robot

The first Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates commercial that debuted last week got a reception about as warm as the one received by the product it was supposed to be promoting: Windows Vista. For those who missed the 2007 debut of Vista, the answer is not very.

Now there are two more commercials in the series and they are two more 90-second head-scratcher. The basic plot line: Bill and Jerry live with a family to get in touch with “real people.” High jinks ensue, leading to Gates doing the robot. The sequels are sure to draw as much criticism as the original, but they may also achieve their intended goal: get people talking about Microsoft again.

The ad campaign — created by agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky — is part of Microsoft’s $300 million effort to try to improve the image of Windows and hit back at Apple, which has effectively portrayed Windows as clunky and out-of-touch with its Mac vs. PC commercials.

So what’s the outlook for media?


For the media business, the next couple of days will likely set the tone for the remainder of the year. Why? Because just about everyone who is anyone will be speaking at a Merrill Lynch conference out in California.

We’re talking about CBS, News Corp, Liberty Media, Time Warner, NBC Universal, etc. You get the picture.

We suspect the catchphrase of the conference will be something like “cautious.” It’s highly unlikely that executives will tell us the media industry is awful, terrible, or horrible.

Bill Gates + Jerry Seinfeld = What?!!???

microsoft.jpgJerry Seinfeld, a huge marketing budget, and well-respected agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky would seem a recipe for success. Unfortunately for Microsoft, which kicked off a $300 million advertising campaign last night, the first commercial debuted to lukewarm reviews.

Microsoft is hoping to improve the image of its Windows Vista operating system and take some of the sting out of those popular “Mac vs. PC” advertisements run by Apple. It hired Seinfeld to help, and the first commercial featured the comedian and Bill Gates at a shoe store.

The problem, it seems, is that many people just didn’t get the commercial.  Here’s a sampling.

Madison Avenue feels your pain


These days, it’s not just Wal-Mart that’s beating the cost savings drum in its marketing. Indeed, in this climate of costly gas and food, job insecurity and falling home prices, you can’t beat cheap on Madison Avenue.

The next to jump on the value bandwagon are McDonald’s and Burger King, according to Adweek.  The trade magazine says that McDonald’s will roll out five new ads starting on September 1. One of them declares, “Fresh flavor with change to spare. I do love the sound of a tasty deal.”

Rival Burger King is also launching a campaign this fall that plays up cost savings. The ads, created by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, are built around “the King putting money back into consumers’ wallets,” Adweek reports.

For your video viewing pleasure…

buffy.jpgGood news for fans of guilty pleasure shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Felicity” or “Dawson’s Creek” - is about to be up and running. With those shows and others, the website hopes to bring in those 18-34 year-olds so loved by advertisers.

Thing is, the website exists even though the television network doesn’t. Recall the WB was folded into UPN a couple of years ago to create the CW.  (Warner Brothers, however, is still one of the major TV studios).

Given that, it’s sort of strange that Craig Erwich, EVP of Warner Horizon Television which oversees, tells Silicon Alley Insider in  an interview that the thing separating, from other websites it – well, the name.

‘Overpayers’ social network

sorrell2.jpgAre Microsoft and WPP gearing for an asset swap?

Advertising Age’s Abbey Klaassen is reporting that the two companies — criticized for overpaying for their respective digital advertising acquisitions — have rekindled six-month-old discussions to scratch each others itch.

Microsoft may possibly be seeking to shed its Avenue A/Razorfish, one of the units of aQuantive it purchased last year in a $5.9 billion deal. Avenue A accounted for about 60 percent of aQuantive’s revenue. But getting anywhere close to $3.5 billion would be far-fetched. The division’s market value is close to $800 million, Klaassen calculates.

Enter WPP’ s Martin Sorrell, who has also sought to unload Open AdStream, the ad-serving division of 24/7 Read Media, which WPP purchased for $649 million.

Microsoft to drop $300 mln in cool quest

seinfeld-bee.jpgTired of being the punch line in Apple’s wildly successful “Get a Mac” ad campaign, Microsoft has pulled out the big guns and turned to … comedian Jerry Seinfeld. The software giant is planning on spending about $300 million to clean up its image, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Pop quiz: What has Jerry done since “Seinfeld” went off the air some ten years ago? (Does “Bee Movie” count if he never actually shows his face?)

Consider, even the nerdy PC guy in Apple’s ads — author and humorist John Hodgman, whom Wired deemed cool enough to grace its cover last year– has kept busy lately. In between writing books and stories for The Paris Review, Wired and the New York Times, he’s found time to pop up on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and host lectures in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which at one time or another suffered the reputation as hipster central.