Wednesday, March 01, 2006's the ADS, baby!

Coke, Miller new advertisers on Oscar roster
ABC has released its list of advertisers for the Academy Awards telecast airing Sunday night and it includes new advertisers Coca-Cola and Miller beer.

Coke replaces Pepsi in the soft drink category and Miller replaces Anheuser-Busch in the beer category.

Twelve other advertisers are returning to the telecast, which is traditionally the year's second-highest primetime ratings event, behind the Super Bowl.

Returning advertisers include American Express,, Dyson, General Motors, Kodak, L'Oreal USA, JCPenney, MasterCard, MasterFoods, McDonald's, Procter & Gamble and State Farm. AT&T is also an advertiser this year.

Commercials in the telecast sold for about $1.7 million per 30-second spot, and incumbent advertisers from previous years were given first dibs.

Last year, the telecast produced a 25.4 household rating, a 15.1 rating in the 18-49 demo and 42.1 million total viewers.


The telecast is desirable for many advertisers because it draws an upscale demo and attracts light television viewers, many of whom are not necessarily heavy moviegoers.

According to an audience profile by Mediamark Research, 33 percent of the viewers of the Academy Awards telecast reported going to the movies once a month or more, but nearly 41 percent attend movies less than once a month. EDITOR'S NOTE: WOW. WE MUST REALLY BE SKEWING THE NUMBERS, AS OFTEN AS WE SEE MOVIES.

The Academy Awards TV audience has remained consistent in its demo makeup, with 60 percent of the viewers female and 28 percent college educated, per Mediamark data tracking back to 1998. EDITOR'S NOTE: 28% COLLEGE EDUCATED SOUNDS LOW. I GUESS COMPARED TO THE WORLD AT LARGE, THAT'S PRETTY GOOD THOUGH?

Oscars Beef Up Marketing Efforts
A media critique by Wayne Friedman
ALL ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE Arts & Sciences' executives are at their marketing battle stations, guns loaded, for the upcoming Oscar broadcast.

Scared to death the Oscars could go the way of the bashing the Grammys, the Golden Globes, and now, the Winter Olympics, have been getting from big network shows, such as Fox's "American Idol" and ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives," the Oscar broadcast is turning up the juice with a full-fledged billboard campaign, a radio ad campaign, and, of course, a balls-to-the-wall ABC on-air TV promo campaign.

Here's the good news: The Oscars are running on a Sunday night, on ABC. That means none of ABC's top-gun shows--"Grey's" or "Housewives"--will get in the way. Don't worry about that other network bulldozer, "American Idol," which flattened first the Grammys, and more recently, NBC's Winter Olympics. Fox may be running it a couple of times during the week--and adding a new limited Thursday run--but Fox will rest "Idol" on Oscar night.

The Academy's plans have been, in fact, a longer-term project--at least a year in the making. Though there has been growing concern for years over limited release, boutique-type movies, like "Brokeback Mountain" and "Crash" receiving too many honors--movies which, in theory, translate into smaller ratings--the impetus actually comes from other arenas. Oscar's marketing push is a reaction to an increasing plethora EDITOR'S NOTE: CAN YOU INCREASE A PLETHORA? ISN'T THAT LIKE SAYING A 'BIGGER BIG'? of entertainment options, as well as other theatrical award shows that air before it.

Just like with most theatrical films, the Oscars is building its marketing campaign a few weeks before it opens--culminating with a rush of advertising and marketing materials the week before the event.

Daily Variety, the voice of Hollywood, offers a calming tone: "In the laws of the Hollywood jungle, it's OK to counterprogram, but you don't pull out your big guns against Oscar."

Oh yeah. Tell this to NBC with its Olympics broadcast and CBS with the Grammys--other seemingly lionesqe animals in the Hollywood jungle that heretofore have gone unprovoked. Both have been surprisingly hunted down.

So the all-powerful Academy shouldn't get too cocky and let its guard down. Otherwise, it's good night and good luck. EDITOR'S NOTE: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. I'M HAVING A PLETHORA OF BOREDOM.

Oscars Win Ad Awards, Big Clients Not Deterred By Niche Films
by Wayne Friedman and David Goetzl

ABC'S "ACADEMY AWARDS" MAY INCREASINGLY honor niche, independent, and small box office films--but big advertisers continue to return in a major way, buying increasingly more expensive commercial time. EDITOR'S NOTE: LIKE THE LEMMINGS THAT THEY ARE.....

Miller Genuine Draft and the new AT&T are two advertisers that weren't in the show last year, but are returning for the "78th Annual Academy Awards." Both had bought the show in years past. Miller replaces Anheuser-Busch, which bought three spots a year ago, with category exclusivity. As previously reported, Coca-Cola--which also has advertised in previous years--will replace Pepsi-Co, which was a major sponsor last year.

The average price tag is $1.7 million for a 30-second spot--up from $1.6 million a year ago, according to media executives. CPM EDITOR'S NOTE: COST PER 1000 PEOPLE...FOR THOSE OF YOU LUCKY ENOUGH NOT TO BE IN ADVERTISING. rates are in the $75 range for the adult 18-to-49 demo, and near $140 for women 25-54.

Media agency executives say the show is still effective for advertisers and viewers. "It has star appeal," said John Rash, senior vice president and director of national programming for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. "It's live and TiVo-proof, and is often as entertaining as the films themselves." EDITOR'S NOTE: SOMETIMES MORE SO. (AND OSCARS CHEZ QOTD IS ALWAYS ENTERTAINING, RIGHT?!)

ABC's new Oscar pre-show, "Oscar Countdown 2006," will, for the first time, run an hour--it had been a half-hour long. According to media executives, prices for that commercial time run $800,000 to $900,000 for a 30-second spot.

Other returning advertisers from last year include: General Motors, Procter & Gamble, MasterCard, MasterFoods, American Express, JCPenney, McDonald's, L'Oreal, Kodak, Dyson Vacuum, and CareerBuilder. Many of these advertisers are incumbents that typically buy year in and year out--they also buy multiple 30-second commercial units. For instance, last year General Motors bought 8 units; Pepsi had 6; JCPenney, 5; American Express and L'Oreal, 4 each; Anheuser-Busch and MasterCard, 3 each; and P&G, Home Depot, and McDonald's, 2 each.
An ABC spokeswoman would only say that a majority of last year's advertisers are returning. She also said ad sales of the broadcast are "virtually done."

This year--more than in previous years--virtually all of the movies nominated for best movie are small, limited-release movies--"Brokeback Mountain," "Crash," "Capote," and "Good Night and Good Luck." So far, "Brokeback," from Focus Films, has pulled in the most U.S. box office revenues--$66.4 million. Only Steven Spielberg's "Munich," from Universal Pictures, was a wide-release movie, earning $44.3 million to date in U.S. box office revenue.

While movies such as "Shakespeare In Love," "Chicago," and "The English Patient" were indie movies that took top honors in years past, those films had the benefit of being nominated with other bigger films. All this helped those broadcasts overall.

"Those movies were surrounded by more successful films," said Rash. "This year, all those films are smaller, more personal films, and more of a challenge for the show's ratings."

Of the new advertisers this year, Miller Brewing is re-launching its MGD, Miller Geninue Draft brand with new creative from The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va. The launch will be around the "Beer Grown Up" tag line.

AT&T will continue its "Your world. Delivered" campaign, running existing creative. The communications company is in the midst of a year-long effort to re-introduce itself after merging with SBC. AT&T, however, is playing off its tagline with special Hollywood-esqe banner ads on ABC's that read: "Red Carpet. Delivered." and "Gossip. Delivered." AT&T's Oscar appearance comes after it ran a pre-game ad on ABC during the Super Bowl (supplemented by an in-game spot buy in 13 states) and had a heavy run during the Olympics on NBC. "They're prime opportunities to reach mass audiences," said AT&T spokesman Michael Coe.

Long known as the Super Bowl for women, the Academy Awards have been amazingly consistent in ratings over the last several years--no matter what the movies' box office revenues. Since 2001, the show's Nielsen Media Research's household ratings have been 26.2, 25.4, 20.4, 26.0, and last year, 25.4.

Thirty-second commercials' prices have risen steadily by $100,000 a year since 1999, when the price tag was $1 million dollars. Like the Super Bowl, no matter the contest, advertisers want to be in the show. EDITOR'S NOTE: YEP. I SNARKED THAT THE ADERTISERS WERE LEMMINGS, BUT IN POINT OF FACT, THERE ARE FEWER AND FEWER PLACES WHERE YOU CAN BUY A MASS AUDIENCE. ESPECIALLY ONE WITH FAIRLY CLASSY, UPSCALE APPEAL. I'D STILL RECOMMEND IT TO CLIENTS WITH DECENT BUDGETS....IF I HAD ANY CLIENTS LIKE THAT RIGHT NOW. (SNIFFLE).

"It's not a CPM buy," said one veteran media buying executive.

Oscar ratings declined slightly last year from the year before. Some on Madison Avenue expect that trend to continue, with independent and niche-appeal films taking center stage. The show will air Sunday, March 5.

"If the numbers went up, it would be a surprise because of the type of movies up for awards," said Lyle Schwartz, managing partner and director of broadcast research for Mediaedge:cia.
The "blockbuster effect" on awards-show performance was demonstrated last fall, as the Emmys saw a 33 percent jump among adults 18 to 49 with viewers tuning in to catch how "Desperate Housewives" and its stars fared.

Other big award shows have struggled--especially against strong competition. With "American Idol" on the same night, the Grammys earlier this month dropped 12 percent in adults 18 to 49. In January, the Golden Globes moved from Sunday to Monday--avoiding competition from "Desperate Housewives" and "Idol"--and benefited with an 11 percent gain in the demo. That show featured stars such as Reese Witherspoon and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who will return for the Oscars--which may augur well for ABC.

Stuffed Envelope
We Love Oscar as Much as Anybody … the Carpet, the Cleavage—But Why Have Once-Scornful Newspapers Gone Awards Crazy? There’s Millions Out There in ‘For Your Consideration’ Ads!
By: Tom Scocca
It’s almost like watching a ballgame played without the ball,” Janet Maslin said.

The former New York Times film critic was reflecting on the burgeoning buzz around the Academy Awards, in a year of distinctly unbuzzy competition. EDITOR'S NOTE: YET HERE I AM, ALL A-TWITTER. NOT THE SAME AS BUZZY, I GUESS?

Amid the modest, tasteful contenders, there is no Titanic—let alone a Dances with Wolves—to provoke fisticuffs about art versus commerce. EDITOR'S NOTE: MORE IS THE PITY. ON THE UPSIDE, THAT SHIP IS STILLLLLLLL SINKING......

But that doesn’t stop the commerce. “The big pile of cash that’s still using a lot of newspaper advertising is Hollywood,” said one ad-industry observer. “And that’s why they’re going like crazy to it.”

And the press, in turn, is creating a hospitable editorial environment for the movie ads—reserving space in print and on the Web for writing about the Academy Awards, whether there’s anything worth saying or not.

Newspapers—whoever’s covering the Oscars—can’t part with the idea that this is the most important movie event of the year,” Ms. Maslin said. EDITOR'S NOTE: YOU MEAN IT'S NOT?

It wasn’t always so. The Times, for one, historically kept the Academy Awards at arm’s length. The Oscars were a movie-industry promotional event, and the movie industry could promote them.

In 1990, The Times put the ceremony on its front page with its old-fashioned, chin-stroking detachment: “Sublime and Tedious, Oscars Endure as Rite and Spectacle.”

For those who study the relationship between movies and television, the Academy Awards is the perfect symbiotic event,” Jane Gross wrote. EDITOR'S NOTE: YEAH. OK. HAVE A GLASS OF WINE AND CHILL OUT, OK? SOMETIMES, IT'S JUST A CIGAR.

Since then, a new form of symbiosis has developed: the relationship between movies and The Times. So the Feb. 20 Times, on its front page, referred readers to an Oscar-themed arts-section story about Jon Stewart’s preparations for hosting the telecast.

The story could also be found on the paper’s Web site in the special Red Carpet section, which debuted Dec. 1. There, print-edition stories about awards are gathered alongside Web-only awards columns, David Carr’s awards blog, awards multimedia presentations and an “Interactive Oscar Ballot.”

Deputy managing editor Jonathan Landman, who oversees The Times’ Web operation, announced in a staff memo on Dec. 7, 2005, that the site would “include a bunch of things you won’t see in the newspaper.” EDITOR'S NOTE: PLUS, IT WON'T COME OFF ON YOUR HANDS!

It would, however, have things not dissimilar from the products of other newspaper companies.

The Envelope will be the destination for everything awards, from sharp commentary to the glamour of the red carpet,” said remarks attributed to Joel Sappell, the Los Angeles Times executive editor for “interactive,” in an Oct. 31 press release.

The Red Carpet had followed hot on the heels of the Los Angeles Times’ awards site, which features awards-themed stories, polls, podcasts and a trio of blogs, including the acquisition of, a longtime awards-enthusiast Web site.

The movie industry seems enthusiastic about the coverage. Last month, Variety reported that Universal had made a massive full-page ad buy on both coasts, filling the New York and Los Angeles Timeses with multiple pages touting Munich and other films. Last year, another Variety report pegged the price of a full-page color ad in the Los Angeles Times at “about $50,000.”

On Feb. 1, Tribune Publishing president Scott Smith described the entertainment market in his company’s fourth-quarter conference call: “We’ve also got the phenomena where the L.A. Times basically gets a whole bunch of trade advertising in the movie category, and that’s driven both by the Academy Awards and other awards at this time of year.”

Mr. Smith then offered a prediction. “And expect over time,” he said, “that we will continue to get a really big share of movie advertising …. ”

And what are readers getting? In the Jon Stewart piece, reporter Jacques Steinberg offered the fit-to-print news that Mr. Stewart has “signed on to lead the establishment’s ultimate talent show,” that his performance “could be remembered for years to come,” and that his writing staff is “reluctant to give away much of their game plan.”

Mr. Steinberg’s story jumped to page E7, where it faced Oscar-themed ads for Munich, Transamerica, Capote and Crash.

Last year, the Times coverage was of then-newly-selected Oscar host Chris Rock. In the run-up to the 2005 show, Mr. Rock informed The Times’ Lola Ogunnaike that “You’ve got to play to what the audience at home went to see.”

In all, The Times ran four separate preview stories about Mr. Rock’s hosting assignment, totaling 3,400 words. With two weeks till show time, Mr. Stewart is closing in on the 3,000-word mark, including a Week in Review entry that block-quoted Mr. Stewart’s Daily Show remarks on the subject of his own selection as Oscar host.

Mr. Stewart and Mr. Rock both received more pre-show coverage in The Times than the previous four first-time hosts—Steve Martin, David Letterman, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal—combined. Ms. Goldberg’s selection for the 1994 show, for instance, rated a 95-word squib from the A.P.

The public interest hasn’t grown at the same rate. According to a graph accompanying Mr. Steinberg’s piece, 45,083,000 viewers tuned in for Ms. Goldberg’s debut. And 42,139,000 tuned in last year to see Mr. Rock.

The trend, in fact, is that there is no trend: Since 1990, Academy Awards viewership has hovered more or less steadily in the low-to-mid-40 millions. That’s how many people care about the Oscars.

What’s changed is how interested the press is in catering to those 40-odd million people. In The New York Times, for the first three months of 1990, a Nexis search for “Oscar” and “Best Picture” or “Best Actor” turns up Ms. Gross’ meditation, among 17 other stories. Five years later, there were only 22. EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL IT'S NOT LIKE THERE'S ANY REAL NEWS FOR THE PAPERS TO WRITE ABOUT, RIGHT?!

Through the next decade, however, the number rose steadily each year—till last year saw a whopping 77.

“There’s no danger you’ll miss anything,” Ms. Maslin said. EDITOR'S NOTE: PHEW! (OH...WAS THAT SARCASM, MS. MASLIN?)

Nor will the reader be allowed to miss nothing. The coverage sprawls across the sections—arts, business, style, news. This past weekend, The Times Magazine spent 27 full pages and the cover on its now-annual portfolio of photos of movie actors, this time daubing the subjects with artsy makeup or attaching various appliances to them: gold body paint on Charlize Theron; cat’s-eye pupils on George Clooney.

Ms. Maslin’s sports-without-the-ball analogy is on the mark: The Oscars have gone from being the Super Bowl to becoming the N.F.L. draft, for which football analysts spend weeks making mock drafts, with round after round of imaginary picks.

Last year, Manohla Dargis offered Times readers this Mel Kiper Jr.–worthy meditation: “Seventy percent of the actors who have won an Oscar for a leading performance have been nominated at least one other time in the same category. Laurence Olivier racked up nine nominations for actor, Jack Nicholson eight, while Marlon Brando, Jack Lemmon and Dustin Hoffman each earned seven. It seemed improbable at the time that a newcomer like Adrien Brody, who won actor for ‘The Pianist,’ could beat out contenders like Daniel Day-Lewis. But if a newcomer takes on the mantle of tragedy—as a dying drunk or a disabled scrapper—his odds of winning improve.” EDITOR'S NOTE: SURE IT'S DUMB AND OBVIOUS. BUT SO IS ALMOST EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE PAPER.

Or this year, Caryn James worked through the following multi-hypothetical, six weeks before Oscar Day: “If there’s some fear haunting ‘Brokeback’ now, it’s that the film has picked up so much momentum there might be a backlash before Oscar time.”

Mr. Landman, who was in charge of the culture department during the last Oscar season, said he was “not a big expert on Oscar coverage” and that the topic of overkill on the Academy Awards was “stupid.”

“It’s not a new thing,” Mr. Landman said of The Times’ coverage.

But there is a historical change behind it. Observers in advertising and the press trace the rise of Oscar publicity to the Miramax marketing campaigns of the 90’s, which gave reporters a dose of conflict to write about—and advertising departments a new product to sell. Suddenly, the awards jockeying was out in the open, and it was addressed to the newspaper audience.

A couple of years ago, The New York Times and the L.A. Times got into the game, and I think probably Harvey Weinstein was one of the first to really utilize those publications to really market to the voter,” said Rose Einstein, vice president and publishing director of Variety. EDITOR'S NOTE: GOOD OL HARV. HE'S A LOON, BUT HE'S A SMART LOON.

So a self-reinforcing cycle was born: Newspapers were the new vehicle for Oscar promotions, and Oscar promotions were news. And where the Academy once sought only to flatter itself, it now flatters the press as well: This year’s Best Picture finalists are pitched to a stereotypical coastal-metropolitan journalist’s sympathies—both explicit (Good Night, and Good Luck, Capote) and implicit (Brokeback Mountain, Crash, Munich).

There is a complete loop going on this year,” Ms. Maslin said, “and it is a loop that completely excludes the audience …. Where’s the person who lives in Ohio and has seen two out of the five nominees?” EDITOR'S NOTE: YES IT'S OVERKILL. BUT AT THE SAME TIME, WHO CARES ABOUT THE BOOB IN OHIO WHO HASN'T SEEN THE MOVIES?! EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE HAS BEEN DUMBED-DOWN TO CATER TO THE IGNORANT AND APATHETIC. AT LEAST THIS PARTICULAR DUMBING-DOWN IS ABOUT FUN STUFF.

Miramax itself is out of the picture—“There’s no one staging a competition this year,” Ms. Maslin said—but the Miramax effect lingers. Writers are primed to chew over the Oscars, and their speculation is one more kind of content, suitable to be rehashed in every available medium.

If the newspaper has a blog and a podcast … editors feel like they’re not doing their jobs if they don’t dish it out at the same level,” Ms. Maslin said. “So they dish it out whether they have anything to dish or not.” EDITOR'S NOTE: OOO...I SUDDENLY FEEL THE FICKLE FINGER OF (SNARKY) FATE POINTING AT THE DWEEBLETTER. SO BE SURE AND KEEP READING THE BLOG ALL WEEK FOR MORE OSCAR REHASHING!

Ms. Maslin added that, as far as The Times’ own Web operations go, she has faith in Mr. Landman’s judgment. “Jon Landman is a really, really smart guy,” she said.

And Mr. Landman rejected the notion that the Red Carpet represents any new growth in The Times’ Oscar coverage. “The only thing that’s new is that the Web gives opportunities to do it in a different way,” Mr. Landman said. “Just as it does in other things.”

For comparison, Mr. Landman cited Thom Shanker’s Web video reports from Iraq: “Now we can, so we do …. Is that expansion of coverage of the war in Iraq?” EDITOR'S NOTE: WAR IN IRAQ VS. OSCARS....HMMM..... I DON'T THINK I WOULD HAVE BEGGED THAT PARTICULAR COMPARISON, BUT THAT'S WHAT MAKES HORSE RACES. (AS ME SAINTED MOTHER ALWAYS SAYS).

And How This Year's Oscars Demonstrate the Problem

By Randall Rothenberg
Advertising opportunities aside, this year’s Academy Awards wouldn’t seem to hold great meaning for the producers of consumer products and services. But the nominations are an ominous portent of the immensely difficult path forward for the companies that crave our consumption.

For the Oscars are showing that it is becoming increasingly, immensely difficult to create new, sustainable stars.

No quite Cary Grant
Take a glance at the nominees for best actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Terrence Howard, Heath Ledger, Joaquin Phoenix and David Straithairn. However prodigious their talents, few would argue that a Cary Grant -- or even a mid-career Harrison Ford -- will ever emerge from this bunch, able to “open” a film by virtue of marquee attraction alone.

So too with the best actress nominees. Although, among them, Judi Dench, Felicity Huffman, Keira Knightley, Charlize Theron and Reese Witherspoon have shown the enviable ability to charm, amuse and emote, it’s hard to imagine that any one of them can or will ever become a bankable name, to the same degree that Katharine Hepburn (or, in the last decade, Julia Roberts) did. EDITOR'S NOTE: IS THIS A BAD THING? WE LIVE IN A MUCH MORE CULTURALLY DIVERSE UNIVERSE, AND WITH FAR MORE ENTERTAINMENT OPTIONS. THERE ARE VERY FEW THINGS WITH TRUE MASS APPEAL ANYMORE. (AND I WOULD ARGUE THAT SOME OF THESE WOMEN MIGHT SOME DAY REACH THAT SORT OF LEVEL...WITHERSPOON, PERHAPS. THERON, PERHAPS).


There is not a Colgate in this bunch. We are entering an era in which the best we can hope for is a Tom’s of Maine.

Out of touch with popular taste?
This year’s Oscar process (which also disgorged a slew of “Best Picture” nominees that, collectively, seem to have been seen by fewer people than any in history) is being dismissed as an anomaly -- the selections of an Academy out of touch with popular taste. One can argue, though, that it is popular taste that has been put on trial and found AWOL. Mass hits are now the exception, not the rule. Stardom is now a transitory, not an enduring, phenomenon. And brands are growing smaller in scale and transferability.

What underlies the dilemma of “star branding?”

It is the direct relationship between the costs of crafting and producing creative content and the fickleness of consumers: As the former goes dramatically down, the latter goes strikingly up.

The more people are awash in images, information and ideas, the less apt they are to stay focused for any length of time on one person, place or thing. And in what’s been dubbed “the attention economy,” sustained consumer focus is the foundation of brand endurance. EDITOR'S NOTE: WE LIVE IN SUCH AN A.D.D SOCIETY. 15 MINUTES OF FAME IS PROBABLY MORE LIKE 10 MINUTES NOW.

Distribution hegemony
Powerful new brands still can be created, of course. But in a world where your average 14-year-old can manipulate video, images, sound and text with the mastery of an old Hollywood studio technician, and where each computer with broadband access is becoming, in effect, its own personalized multimedia network, it’s becoming harder than ever to assume, as we did for 100 years, that distribution hegemony alone leads to brand strength.

Google, eBay, MySpace and Swiffer, among other new power brands, show that even older rules apply: To establish a brand, you need to be able to attract a crowd, and to attract a crowd, you have to fill an unmet need -- respectively, in their cases, for unlimited information, infinite product choice, unrestricted community and really fast cleaning. And -- vitally important -- you have to innovate continually, to anticipate the fresh demands that will creep up and around those consumer needs.

It’s the latter activity that gives the most hope, especially for the owners of established brands, whether in media space or in “meat space.”

You have the platform. You have the audience. To keep them from drifting away from your star to that new character actor around the corner, though, you must stay ahead of their wants, and take the risk of fulfilling them -- over and over again.

~ ~ ~Randall Rothenberg, an author and longtime journalist, is director of intellectual capital at consultancy Booz Allen-Hamilton


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