The Next Best Thing In TV Still Years Away
The season premiere of Fox’s 24 included an uninterrupted episode with Ford ads at the end of the show, although some Ford products were strategically placed throughout the program. MTV and clothing maker Aeropostale have been experimenting with short- and long-form spots.
Scripps Networks has been running several types of nontraditional ads on its DIY, HGTV, Food Network and Fine Living. ESPN says it’s exploring opportunities in long-form advertising. Infomercials are being embraced by traditional advertisers eager to try direct response. And new technologies are blending content and advertising in interactive TV, personal video recorders and elsewhere.
Yet the 15-second and 30-second spot still rule on networks and cable alike, and no one thinks that’s going to end anytime soon. Jon Swallen, senior vice president and director of media knowledge at Universal McCann, predicts it will be a while before the 30-second spot even starts to show signs of age.
“Five years from now, even eight years from now, the 30-second spot will still be primary,” Swallen says. Even today, with the advertising possibilities of technologies like TiVo, Wink and interactive television, Swallen points out that 99% of television inventory is still in 15- and 30-second spots.
Steve Gigliotti, SVP of advertising sales for Scripps Networks, points to his networks innovations on the DIY channel. In what Scripps calls a “kit,” a 30-second spot is married to a 60-second do-it-yourself brief. DIY took a relatively old concept – the 60-second short-form message that used to run in sports shows that told of great feats or games – and brought it up to date and into the context of its networks. This cross between a short-form program and a long-form commercial provides a quick course on home-improvement topic like repairing a window sill. The 60-second spot provides a brief overview of the project with directions to detailed instructions on a Web site. A company like Lowe’s sponsors both.
Gigliotti says that part of the appeal of the DIY spots has to do with the fact that they’re related to and look like programming.
“It’s not something that comes out of the blue. It’s endemic to what you’re watching on the program and the sponsor is endemic to the concept. When we match those things up, our advertisers get an enormous impact out of the 30-second spot and the connection to the 60-second spot,” says Gigliotti.
Scripps’ newest network, Fine Living, has started to work with different forms of content and advertising. Tips, sponsored by an advertiser, appear during the breaks.
“We’re creating segments within the show that are contextually linked to the show, but also contextually linked to an advertiser … It gives the advertiser more impact for its 30s,” Gigliotti says.
Other shows are integrated, with no breaks between them and only a sponsor’s logo and picture integrated into the opening. They’ve also been accommodating to advertisers like BMW and Viking, recutting programs to be able to add a two- or three-minute long-form commercial.
While technology is going to change the way we think about and carry out advertising, Swallen says it’s going to be subject to a lot of development and research. It’s not going to happen overnight, no matter what the predictions say.
“The natural tendency is to think that it will fast forward,” he says. But Swallen says two realities – the rate of impact of new technology is invariably slower than forecast and the cumulative impact of multiple technologies – will slow acceptance.
“Yes, they will have an impact on consumers and marketers but the timetable of that effect will be more drawn out,” he says.
He says that product placement and sponsorship seen today are slight variations on the current advertising model. The successful future of advertising, Swallen says, is in the same formula for past and current success. It’s the byproduct of an effective marriage of content and context.
“That has not changed in 50 years and it’s not likely to change in the next 50 years,” Swallen says.