Conan, Geico, and Companion

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Late-night television has been a classic North American pastime since Johnny Carson popularized the genre in the early 1960s. As a child and teen told to be quietly in my room before 11PM, I never understood why when it came to talk shows, late was seen as better. Now, for the first time in my life, I get it. All prime time and late-night shows want the attention of the ideal 18-34 age demographic, so what better time than when those young people are winding down around midnight?

The idea of late-night was great until recently when that ideal demographic started demanding that they be able to watch what they want when they wanted. I can personally attest to the fact that no one I know watches cable regularly. The question of “when is it on?” has turned into “is it on Netflix?”. With this change of instant demand, how are advertisers supposed to follow that audience?

When I watch Conan on television, TBS does these plugs during each commercial break where two voices talk together about who the sponsor is. Since TBS is known for comedy, the spot starts with a “knock knock” joke or something similar. Often, this draws me in and I look to the screen to see if it is a part of Conan’s show. By the time I have realized it is an advertisement, the spot is mostly over so I stick around and end up seeing whom the advertiser is. Usually, it is Geico and immediately after the TBS promotion, a Geico ad plays. The one I have seen more than any other is one about a cat ignoring a man in quicksand. It makes sense as an advertisement. Youths love the Internet and the Internet loves cats. Thus, that key demographic will love this advertisement about how mean cats can be.

Geico has managed to stay relevant and attractive to students like me because of the incredibly high production value their commercials have. Geico embraces memes and motifs of Internet culture and remains talked about. I can’t remember how many times I saw a reference to camels and “hump day” come up on my Facebook newsfeed. I may not need to buy my own insurance now, but when I start shopping, Geico will definitely be the first company that comes to mind.

So now that Geico has my attention, how will I find my way to Conan on TBS? This is where Conan now needs to embrace the Internet. Television shows are already naturally divided up by their commercial breaks, which make them perfectly formatted for YouTube. At the end of any Conan video I find on YouTube, Conan has a call-to-action, saying to subscribe and watch Conan at whatever time on TBS. Often only one part of a celebrity interview is present on YouTube. Once I discovered that I wouldn’t be getting every part of every interview from Conan’s YouTube channel, I decided to start making an effort to watch on TBS. Now I’m at TBS, watching the advertisements intended for me to see.

Outside of the online world, companies attempt to use in-person campaigns to grab the attention of potential users and customers. On a college campus, there are hot spots of foot traffic. Companies reach out to find student ambassadors who will promote a product to their peers. For instance, Yik Yak set up a tent on the quad and gave out prizes depending on your Yik Yak score. Victoria Secret sometimes comes to the university to hand out swag and discount coupons. Both of these companies have managed to catch my eye and my attention while I’m walking to class, but the one that has made me stop and look is the app Companion. The application works as a GPS safety monitor for those walking home alone at night. The image below is the exact image I have seen in poster form on columns in my dorm building.


The image of a phone with an application on it catches my attention immediately. As someone who owns a smartphone, I am always looking for apps to make life easier. The app has found a way to attack the problem of safely walking home and in addition, address a social justice issue. While the app does not specifically target women with their advertisements, it is clear that the app will help reduce cases of violence against women in cities. I find it tasteful and appreciate that the app is not openly claiming to reduce sexual assault or fix problems. In this way, I feel that the marketing is subtle and successful.

So many companies seem to be using college campuses as a place to market their products that I will be interested to see how the same types of companies market once I graduate. For instance, when I go home to New Hampshire, I am never given fliers, I never see bulletins, and I rarely consider changing which products I buy. This makes me curious as to whether companies even bother marketing to low-population areas. The power of a college campus is immense, and the idea is that whatever college students are interested in, the rest of society will be interested in.

I have recently become more active on Twitter, and looking into both Conan and Companion’s presence, I found it difficult to find an account for Companion. Going through Twitter, all I could find were other companies’ companion applications for their product. Eventually, through Companion’s website, I found their Twitter. Companion does not have a great Twitter presence and while the posters intrigued me for Companion, I am not inclined to follow their Twitter.

Conan’s Twitter, on the other hand, has 17.9 million followers. Conan seems to be sending out the tweets himself and each one is witty and hilarious. Compared to Jimmy Fallon’s Twitter, which is filled with mostly promotions for his show, Conan’s tweets are ones I want to keep reading. Conan’s twitter has 18.4 million followers as opposed to 30.5 million followers.

In general, I don’t think that my attention is that hard to grab. If colors are thrown on a poster or in an advertisement, I will be drawn to the advertisement. However, for something to be an interesting marketing campaign, I need to have my interest maintained across all social media platforms I frequent.

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