Friday, August 5, 2011

(empo-tymshft) Johnny Carson knew who NBC's customers were

In a previous post, I made a point of noting that most Google and Facebook users are NOT customers of Google and Facebook. In reality, the true customers of those services are the advertisers who pay money to Google and Facebook. Most of us are just data points who provide value to the advertisers, and thus to the services who sell ads to them.

Of course, this model is nothing new - television and radio have used it for decades. OK, the English pay a tax to fund the BBC, but in most countries over-the-air networks broadcast at no charge.

Which brings us to an incident in 1973. "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" was provided, like Google, to people at no cost (other than the cost of buying a device to receive the free transmissions). Funding for the show was provided by advertisers who chose to place their ads on Carson's page - I mean show.

One of those advertisers was Alpo, and Ed McMahon regularly presented Alpo ads on the show. One night, however, things weren't going well:

"Real beef could be the reason," he announced, "Fernandez here - you heard him cry - come here, dear" - whereupon the dog ran away. "Come on, come on," McMahon beseeched. "He's a little frightened. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Nice Fernandez..."

Though McMahon moved the food toward Fernandez and continued to beg, the stubborn dog refused to obey.

At this point the host of the show, Johnny Carson, pretended to be a dog and crawled on all fours to the Alpo dish, pretending to eat it and licking McMahon in gratitude.

You can see the commercial on this non-embeddable video.

Carson obviously understood the importance of NBC's true customers.
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