Monday, August 06, 2007

"If a plane flies over the Atlantic, what's the name of my pet turtle?" "Blockbuster!"

DVD-rental giant Netflix has seen it's stock price deflate over the last 18 months, from over $30 to below $20 today. If you'd written the company off as being antiquated from its inception, with a business model of sending hard copies via snail mail, look again--the company is now selling streamed movies and TV programming. So it's still going to be tough to compete with free at sites like YouTube, but the entertainment industry is wise to look for ways to profit from cheap and easy peer-to-peer file exchanges instead of vainly attempting to stop them, and NetFlix is a beneficiary of that coming around.

Why the drop? Here's a shot. It's roughly corresponded with the company's newest ad campaign. That campaign is terrible. The setting: The final bonus round of a gameshow, in which the contestant is asked three questions that must be answered correctly to win a glut of money. The first two questions are inane questions with similarly inane answers: "What is the square root of orange?" "Turqoise." "What's half of Tuesday?" "Sunday afternoon." The final question is some variant on how to enjoy movie rentals, with NetFlix as the answer.

Why make it seem as though it takes a genius to realize that signing up for NetFlix is a smart move? The company ships 1.6 million movies per day--it's not exactly a luxury service. The ad agency seems to be trying to create the impression that contemporary Einsteins, who've just answered exceedingly difficult questions, are faced with their toughest challenge yet in the NetFlix question. They get it right, and so do you, so I guess that means you're a genius, too. Or some kind of savant, anyhow, since you came up short on the incoherent intro and penultimate questions.

Infinitely more irritating, why not ask formidable, but legitimate, trivia questions that have real answers? Most listeners will recognize the first two to be pseudo-questions with pseudo-answers. The falsities aren't even shrouded in technical jargon or about arcane subjects that make them unfamiliar to most listeners. They're obviously bogus. Does being lied to twice prime you for ingesting as truth what is said the third time?

If the initial questions were challenging but legitimate, the ad would be edifying. It's engaging enough, as trivia questions always garner attention--try not watching Jeopardy or Who Wants to be a Millionaire the next time you're in a gym or an office while one of them plays on a set. It's a lot easier to ignore a sitcom or football game.

Using real questions would work to the ad's advantage, in that by the third question, the listener is and has been paying attention. As it stands, the listener is attuned to the ad, but his awareness is heightened because he just heard a bunch of crap and is about to find out who forced it upon him, not because he's had the pleasurable experience of expanding his knowledge base without any work on his part.

No comments: