The Office Pool: 2004 Edition

The old proverb, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” is so right. Of course, so was Friedrich Nietzsche when he said, “The bad gains respect through imitation.”

Last year about this time, I wrote the Analyzing Customer Data office pool and predictions for 2003. It was a blatant imitation of William Safire’s annual office pool. So, depending on your point of view, I was either flattering Safire or simply a bad writer looking to gain respect. Either way, that column proved popular among readers.

How did you do with your predictions from last year? Did you correctly predict AOL would change its name to Time Warner, search engines would become as common an advertising vehicle as the yellow pages, and Gator CMO Scott Eagle would stand in front of a courthouse gleefully repeating, “We won, we won, we really won!”? If so, then congratulations! Your prognostication skills are well honed. If not, don’t feel bad. We live in an unpredictable society.

Here’s your chance for validation or redemption. Without any further ado, I present the 2004 Analyzing Customer Data office pool and predictions for 2004:

  1. Microsoft will unleash:

    1. A broad-based strategy that combines Internet power and Microsoft software products to develop a direct billing relationship with consumers

    2. A new version of Windows that revolutionizes the way consumers interact with computers
    3. An ISP service that is more intuitive and consumer friendly than AOL
    4. A flurry of marketing and advertising campaigns touting a variety of software products, both existent and non-, that nobody truly understands

      (Feeling a little déjà vu? Doesn’t Microsoft try to do these things every year?)

  2. US Attorney General John Ashcroft will:

    1. Use the power vested in him by the recent federal anti-spam legislation to crack down on the miscreants filling our inboxes and ruining email marketing.

    2. Use the power vested in him to hire Siebel to build the world’s first TRM system — Terrorist Reconnaissance Management. Of course, everyone has potential to become a terrorist, so we’re all “in the system.”
    3. Ask airlines to provide the government all passenger contact information, credit card details, and itineraries for the past 24 months (only JetBlue will be stupid enough to willingly cough up the goods).
    4. Join forces with New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to investigate the sharing of personally identifiable customer data by Internet companies.

  3. TiVo will:

    1. Lose 100,000 subscribers, and thus the U.S. will continue to have more outhouses than TiVo subscribers.

    2. File for Chapter 11.
    3. Create an Internet-based software version of TiVo that allows consumers to record television programming to their desktop hard drives, watch television programming on their PC monitors, and swap television programs with other consumers via high-speed Internet connections. A legal battle between TiVo and the television industry erupts and makes the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) battle against music file sharing look like an elementary school skirmish.
    4. Finally realize its core competency is building content management software, not advertising or consumer electronics, and flourish by signing broad licensing deals with cable television operators.

  4. Nielsen will:

    1. Figure out Microsoft Xbox gaming systems cause unusual interference with their in-home ratings boxes that prevent viewership data from being transmitted to Nielsen. Nielsen representatives wipe egg from their faces as they publicly announce this is the reason for the decline in television viewership among males 18-35.

    2. Refund hundreds of thousands of dollars the broadcast networks paid to them in 2003 and promise to “make things right” in 2004.
    3. Continue to generate ratings reports that expose the broadcast networks’ dwindling market share and, therefore, further infuriate broadcast television executives who claim the programming is fine, it’s the data that’s wrong.
    4. Acquiesce to broadcast television executives and agree to make changes in their audience measurement system that will show an increase in television viewership among men 18-35. Simultaneously, Nielsen will announce it has renegotiated the terms of its agreements with the broadcast television networks. The new agreements increase the revenue it will recognize from the broadcast television networks by a factor of four over the next 10 years.

  5. The RIAA will:

    1. File a lawsuit against Nielsen claiming its reporting tools inaccurately reflect the number of songs downloaded illegally from the Internet. Soon after the RIAA will retract the lawsuit, without admitting any mistake and reserving the right to refile the lawsuit in the future, when Nielsen states it doesn’t even track those statistics.

    2. Give up trying to file lawsuits against its members’ best customers when it realizes it’s fighting a battle it can’t win.
    3. Change its official name to “Really Idiotic Aimless Association.”
    4. Keep on suing people who have neither computers, high-speed Internet access, nor file-sharing software in their homes. The RIAA claims they are nevertheless criminals, violating the copyrights of music artists.

  6. Price discrimination will:

    1. Become all the rage among Internet retailers but confuse and disenfranchise consumers. Amazon charged me $37 for “The DaVinci Code.” How come it charged you just $21?

    2. Continue to be practiced subtly by marketers doing business both online and off-. Do you offer customers a loyalty or rewards program? Isn’t that a form of price discrimination?
    3. Come under attack by consumer watch dog and privacy groups that view it as another attempt by Corporate America to extract every last penny from consumers. This is, in fact, exactly correct.
    4. Come under attack by civil libertarians who are against discrimination of any kind and feel that prices deserve the right not be discriminated against.

  7. Broadcast television executives will:

    1. Continue to expound on the deficiencies of the Nielsen television ratings measurement process while proliferating prime time with mindless, brain-numbing reality television stunts

    2. Reverse course and expound on the high-level of accuracy of the Nielsen television ratings measurement process, but only after the Nielsen ratings turn around and show increased viewership in broadcast television
    3. Start careers as professional speakers teaching people how to talk out of both sides of their mouths simultaneously
    4. Begin searching for media jobs at companies whose market share shows staggering growth, such as Internet media

  8. The 2004 Presidential election will:

    1. Make the 2000 debacle in Florida look orderly. One state will be forced to recount by hand hundreds of votes originally cast electronically. The electronic votes were accidentally wiped out by a third-shift programmer who hit “Ctrl X” instead of “Ctrl V.”

    2. Make the 2000 debacle in Florida look orderly. Six states will be forced to hold a second round of elections after a computer virus named GoreStrikesBack.vsg wipes out all records of electronic votes cast in the general election.
    3. Make the 2000 debacle in Florida look orderly. California decides to protest the entire election after determining it would be better off seceding from the U.S., refusing to pay debts owed to foreign enterprises (defined as any enterprise not based in the new nation of California), and lobbying for international aid packages offered by the U.S.. Los Angeles residents will be indifferent, more concerned about when the 2005 Mercedes convertible will be available.
    4. Be recognized as the election that brought politicians into the Internet age. Howard Dean demonstrates how to effectively use the Internet to create a virtual campaign, allowing him to simultaneously reach United States residents across the country — stumping for votes, collecting donations, communicating his platform, and building a grass-roots following unlike anything seen to date. Al Gore tries to take the credit.

  9. Privacy policies will:

    1. Be recognized by consumers as exactly what they are, malleable policy documents created solely to give consumers comfort at the moment they are being read, but without any true long-term protection of privacy.

    2. Continue to be blindly relied upon to protect consumers from having their personally identifiable information released to the general public. Companies continue to release consumers’ personally identifiable information without being penalized for their “mistakes.”
    3. Be strengthened by the creation of a federal authority that has broad scope to protect Americans’ privacy. The authority establishes strict rules and penalties for releasing consumer’s personally identifiable information to anyone other than the federal government. The administrator in charge is John Ashcroft.
    4. Morph into a new standard bearer of consumer protection — the Privacy Guarantee. The new name gives consumers confidence they have even more protection now than they did before because “privacy guarantee” sounds better than “privacy policy.” The contents of the two documents are identical.

  10. The U.S. Congress will:

    1. Publicly decide the Internet is an infant form of media that deserves continued protection from state and local tax authorities. Shortly thereafter it will pass a federal law banning taxes on ISPs indefinitely.

    2. Publicly decide the Internet is a mature form of media that no longer requires protection from state and local tax authorities. Shortly thereafter consumers begin receiving bills from ISPs laden with new line items indicating “taxes and fees” for everything from universal serviceability to local library funds. The cost of Internet access increases 12 percent.
    3. Make no public decision nor comment on protecting ISPs from state and local tax authorities. Shortly thereafter consumers begin receiving bills from ISPs laden with new line items indicating “taxes and fees” for everything from universal serviceability to local library funds. The cost of Internet access increases 12 percent.
    4. Publicly decide since Al Gore invented the Internet, he should make the final decision on Internet taxation.

Wishing you health, happiness, and even greater success in 2004!

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