August 20th, 2006
According to Frank Ahrens at the Post, far from killing the traditional tv networks as some had predicted, TiVo and other digital video recorders may be helping to save them, in part by allowing people to view two shows at once — watching one immediately while saving the other for later.
For political media folks, the biggest takeaway is that DVRs don’t seem to be putting any particular hurt on traditional 15- and 30-second ad spots either, though they may encourage some changes in the way the ads are made. Even when viewers fast-forward, at least one study shows that they’re just as aware of which brands are being advertised as those who watch the ads in their entirety.
Some advertisers are reacting by keeping their logos on-screen through the entire course of an ad, which would work well in positive campaign spots, where the candidate’s name could be associated with nice warm imagery. [An aside — will ad firms start using even more super-slo-mo footage, like languidly waiving flags, that will be recognizable when a viewer's zipping through?] Negative ads may face more of a problem, since I bet it’ll be hard to get most negative ads’ point of view across at 10x normal speed.
What I found really interesting was GE’s attempt to get DVR users to spend more time with its ads by hiding Easter eggs in them — extra content would appear when people paused the ads at certain points, and the company’s marketing director said that the average user ended up spending two minutes playing with a 30-second spot. I suspect that the effect might fade somewhat if this approach became more common, though, since people will likely get just as bored with it as we do with anything else on the tube.
I’ve long felt that the current ad environment really puts a premium on creativity. Watch any cable network targeted at younger viewers, from Comedy Central to Fuse. The ads on these channels are often really rich visually and conceptually and can even be a joy to see. Then, go watch the ads on broadcast network news — ugh. Of course, the two kinds of ads are aimed at very different audiences, but I really believe if you want people to get your message, give them something to watch that they WANT to watch.