When bleach is not enough

By | March 5, 2019

I have been an avid swimmer all my life, from swim team during middle school to community centre swims instead of office lunches. Typically, I would leave the office, drive to the pool, change, shower in, swim a mile, shower out and be back at the office in less than 90 minutes. Sometimes before and sometimes during a swim, the guards would clear and close the pool. The reason, they said, was that, “There has been a fouling,” intoned in the manner of, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Sure enough, you could sometimes see where some kid had failed to make it to the washroom and there were … foulings in the pool. Chlorine can erase the physical traces of that kind of problem, but it can’t erase the indelible impression and aversion reaction that builds against public pools.

Kerry Knudsen

Well, there has been a fouling. I am a life-long subscriber to Consumer Reports magazine. I don’t buy into every “value proposition” they present, but the product testing is sometimes helpful, and the value discussions are part of my job. So yesterday I got what may be the fifth demand that I complete their winter survey. I sometimes complete surveys if they interest me, but I never feel I am under any obligation to fill out a survey just because I bought a bird feeder on Amazon or a magazine.

The thing is, the digital world has become survey-drunk. They can’t get enough. They are data gluttons, and I am their refrigerator.

We spent a bit of time again this year in Costa Rica. It has become my favourite destination. This time we stayed for a series of days at two separate residences under the AirBnB protocol, and each time we were hit with a “survey” before we were reasonably gone. In one case, I was asked to review my Costa Rica trip when I was languishing on the patio during the second phase of my Costa Rica trip. In the other, I got the survey as soon as we were wheels-down in Canada and not yet at the gate.

To the point, we are quitting our popular November Readers’ Surveys. As with photography, Fakebook, desktop publishing, music, videography and news, the digital rebellion has made every profession into Amateur Night and polluted the environment with foulings of every description.

Our readers have been absolutely fantastic about responding to our questions, giving us the highest response rates I have ever heard of, and the highest praise. However, you can feel the energy going away, and I am not about to badger them for responses until the last dog dies. They have treated me with respect, and I will do the same for them. Besides, I am tired of hearing that our competitors are calling our respondents liars and claiming they could get the same results if they tried. It’s just more fouling.

Our readers have told us time after time that they love ads and new product releases, but they don’t want the advertisers to control their magazines. The competition delivers a fouling. Our readers have told us they don’t want spam in their in-boxes. The competition delivers a fouling. Et cetera. So, we quit. The market is what it is, and there is no point destroying our relationship trying to prove the obvious while the jackanapes scream from the bushes, fouling the environment at every turn.

For our suppliers, the art of sales is not getting easier in the digital world. It is getting harder. It is harder to identify and attract a market, harder to get a response and harder to track return on investment, which has never been easy in advertising.

I see Weight Watchers (now WW) took a deep dive in January, losing 36 percent at one point. The Street’s take is, as usual, multi-faceted, some citing Weight Watchers as being an “old-school” brand, and others citing emotional overreaction from the “stockholders,” now properly known as algorithms. There is scarcely a value buyer left in the market.

There are a couple of other items, too, that may have an impact.

First, WW decided to try that fair-haired child of marketing geniuses, celebrity appeal, so they brought in Oprah Winfrey with a package that gave her eight percent of the company. Now, of course, that means she owns her share of a multi-million-dollar loss, but that’s a different topic.

The question is, even if celebrity marketing works, does that make Oprah the poster kid? They thought so, but Oprah’s audience may not be the actual market they are seeking. I’m not saying there are no fat ladies watching Oprah. However, recent research had discovered, amazingly, that, “there are many reasons to suspect that body image in adult women both may differ from and possibly be more complex than that of younger women. Adult women face myriad factors influencing body image beyond those delineated in the body image literature on adolescents and young adult women. For instance, aging-related physiological changes shift the female body further away from the thin-young-ideal, which is the societal standard of female beauty.”

In English, people tend to become more accepting of reality as they mature. So, in the case of Oprah’s audience, maybe the critical mass of viewers has focused away from body image ideals and toward family and life issues.

Another matter is advertising. I confess to never having watched the Oprah Winfrey Show. I know what she looked like and looks like, and I know that the show made her one of the richest people on the planet. But on the media I watch, and it’s quite a bit because of my job, I see either no or almost no ads for WW. I see South Beach Diet, I see Nutrisystem, I see Jenny Craig and I see a smattering of allusions to keto, low-carb, paleo, etc., but no WW.

I tend to watch quite a bit of media aimed at younger viewers, largely because I think we need to try to figure out what they are thinking. On that note, I think they are all thinking Artificial Intelligence will come along and save them, which is the opposite of thinking, but I watch and wait, and nobody is asking.

Anyway, dollars are flowing in torrents for body image stuff, including more perfume for men, and they are not flowing to WW. Is it Oprah? Is it AI? Is it mis-targeting? Is it wrong messaging?

Or is it just a fouling?

You may notice I did not mention original, valuable content in this note. Not even once. That has to be a record.

We have a several shows coming up soon. As an added value to our advertisers, we are offering a special promo opportunity: Buy two print ads at earned-frequency rates, and get 50% off a great promo package including Supply Side exposure, a three-month web ad and your choice of a Wood Industry or Wood Industry US e-letter sponsorship. Steve King can reserve your space.

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