How To Get People To Watch TV Ads: Don't Stop The Program While You Show Them

from the good-luck-with-that dept

TV broadcasters have long struggled with how to deal with DVRs and how they allow users to skip over commercials. Perhaps the favored approach has been to come up with technological responses to try and prevent people from fast-forwarding; fewer companies have figured out that advertising is content, and needs to be treated as such. Viewers need to be given a reason to watch ads, whether it's simply entertainment or because the content offers some other value. Another idea that's being tested: not stopping the show during ad breaks. On one show on CNN, when the ads start, the studio cameras keep rolling, showing "behind-the-scenes" footage in a small box in the corner. The belief is that if there's still some bit of "program content" going, it will be enough to keep people from flipping channels or skipping ahead, even if it is just paper shuffling and makeup being touched up. It's an interesting proposition, but once viewers realize they're not missing anything of value, won't they switch away or fast-forward? And if the program content actually is valuable, won't people just not pay attention to the ads? The problem here seems to be that this is just an effort to recreate a captive audience. But without offering anything of value to the viewer -- whether it's the ads themselves or this "program content" -- they're not going to stick around and suck up the ads.

Filed Under: advertising, dvrs, tv
Companies: cnn


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  1. icon
    Paul Hobbs (profile), 22 Apr 2010 @ 5:25pm

    Re: Re: Surely there can be life without ads??

    An ad-supported model is using the content - which is an unlimited resource because it can be copied - and turning the attention of the viewers it attracts into something that can be sold to advertisers. Sell physical goods by attracting people with virtual goods - that business model works.
    I'm not sure I entirely agree with this. Sure, in the past this is how it worked. And for the most part it still works this way now (or else advertisers would have given up on TV completely). I don't have the stats to back this up (and I don't know how you would even measure this), but my gut feel is that TV ads are less effective now than they used to be, and will be even less effective in the future. Once DVRs become as ubiquitous as DVD players, TV viewing habits will start to change. I know when I got my TiVo that my viewing patterns changed dramatically - I rarely watch "live" TV anymore. I record what I want, watch it when it is convenient, and fast fwd through the ads.

    In Australia we have a system called FreeView - this is basically all the free-to-air channels along with an EPG. DVR manufacturers are only FreeView compliant if their devices are limited to a maximum fast forward speed of 32x. As long as they comply with this restriction, they can display the FreeView logo, and they have access to the EPG. Personally, I have no issue with 32x - it is fast enough that I can zip through 3 minutes of ads in a few seconds.

    I think we are still a few years off yet, but the day is coming (IMHO) when advertisers will decide that TV no longer offers a good ROI. I would say that gimmicks like the one CNN is experimenting with are no more than re-arranging deckchairs.

    In principle I agree with you that if a supply is infinite, the price will drop. But I'm not convinced it is always like that. One example might be bottled water. Pretty much everyone (where I live anyway) has access to clean, drinkable water, straight from the tap. And for all intents and purposes, it is an infinite supply. Yet people still buy massive amounts of bottled water, despite the fact that it is more expensive than petrol and offers no advantages over tap water.

    I don't like Apple (the company or their products), but my business partner and I have decided that we should invest in an iPhone so we can demo our products/services as an iPhone app. Basically it comes down to wank value. Anyway, our new iPhone arrived yesterday - very nice looking phone, easy to use, etc - I can completely understand why lots of people buy them. But as part of the process of setting it up (just last night), I discovered something interesting. On iTunes I can buy an entire season of a TV series for $9.99. I never knew this was possible. As much as I can't stand Apple, this is pretty much what I have been looking for. I don't know if I can buy TV shows (from iTunes) here in Australia - it seems like many of the products that are available in the US are not available here. But it is nice to know that it is happening.

    Maybe my idea above (actually, it isn't really my idea) won't work. Maybe people won't pay for TV shows, even if the price of goods and services drops as a result of lower advertising costs. But if I was CNN (or NBC or FOX or whoever) - I would still be exploring ways of being able to pay for the development of TV shows without relying on advertising dollars.

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