DVRs Changing the Way Marketers Reach Consumers: Minority Report, Anyone?

Digital video recorders are fast becoming a headache for TV marketers as viewers have itchy fast-forwarding fingers. But there are remedies to these nervous digits -- including under-developed marketing technologies.

A new report from Magna Global confirms what is virtually now assumed as common knowledge - DVR users fast forward through commercials. The longer you use the DVRs, the greater the skipping of commercials. (One side benefit: DVR users generally watch more TV than non-DVR users).

The solution for those viewers missing advertising isn't with product placement -- as many press accounts suggest. You can't replace the 20 typical 30-second national TV messages in an average primetime hour network -- such as in NBC's "The West Wing" - with 20 different product placement deals. Even if you could, you have to do it again the next week -- and the week after that.



If TV viewers want commercial-free TV programming, TV networks best give it to them. But consumers have to pay for that experience. Perhaps networks should go to a pay-TV or video on demand model.

What's left for advertisers? The one media that should be considered more is the Internet. No matter how much consumers fast forward, they still need the primal intent of all advertising --- product information. The easiest place to get that is the Internet.

Commercial messages will survive. But there will be far less of them -- perhaps one or two per show. Already, in season premieres of shows such as Fox's "24" with Ford Motor Co., as well as other series premieres, such as on FX, one advertiser gets a two or three minute vignette or mini-movie message before or after a show.

Last year, NBC experimented with one-minute movies in an effort to keep viewers from switching programs. More recently ESPN's "SportsCenter" had Sears, and other advertisers, sponsoring 'serial' story vignettes, where a storyline stretched through two or three separate vignettes over the course of a week or more.

If this doesn't work, advertisers will no doubt find one more way to get their high-impact video messages out. Just think of Tom Cruise in the high-tech futurist, "Minority Report" running through a subway while voice-actuated print advertising calls out to him pitching products and services.

Take this one step further: Wireless holography.

Imagine the possibilities: You're driving down the highway when all of a sudden a Mobil gasoline ad pops up translucently on the bottom part of your windshield reminding you to fill up. Or a Hallmark message jogs your memory that your wife's birthday is coming up.

As a penance for commercial-free entertainment - and for all those years of going to the kitchen for a snack during commercials -- consumers will now really have to focus.

Sure there will be a few traffic accidents, but that's the price for fast-forwarding your DVR through "Extreme Makeover: Bidet Edition."

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