Ennui See: Same Old Same Old Ads on NBC's Olympics Stream

There always  have been commercials, like some songs, that fill me with visceral loathing.

Almost anything performed by the Lumineers will send me out of the room.

And I’m stunned that DirecTV continues to air its current series of commercials featuring a cascading series of bad events (“When you pay too much for cable, you throw things. When you throw things, people think you have anger issues…” and so on) that lead, in some improbable sequence, to the advice to drop cable and keep DirecTV.

I can’t imagine commercials that more forcefully attach me to cable. I hate DirecTV for those ads, and I know I just can’t be alone there.

Worst of all are commercials played far too often in a short time frame, which, reports BusinessWeek, is the problem NBC Sports is having with its streaming telecast of the Winter Olympics. Writes Joshua Bruostein, “ If you’re watching NBC’s online coverage, better brace yourself for some mind-numbing repetition: The same BP commercial has run three times in four minutes during a replay of the men’s moguls, and one spot for Bounty paper towels played three times in a row during a single break.” He lists other examples.



“This inability to barrage online audiences effectively with marketing during sports broadcasts feels almost un-American,” Brustein writes. “It’s a baffling breakdown in the capitalist order, given the extreme enthusiasm the media and technology industries have shown for digital video ads, which draw much higher rates than, say, the boring advertising banners commonly found on Websites.”

I’ve wondered the same thing about streams of baseball games, which either “feature” no commercials at all during some breaks, or the same monotonous bunch—all season long. The basball season is ridiculously extended, 162 games long, with interruptions every half inning and during every pitching change. That major league baseball can’t sell that time to a multitude of sponsors just makes it seem like nobody is trying. The same commercials from the same sponsors run over and over can’t be good for the brand, even before the All-Star break. And no ads at all. Stunning!  I’d think interns could sell those packages.

Repetitious ads kind of work. Some ad executives say that it’s not until the general public is sick to death of a commercial that the message is finally getting through. I don’t buy that theory.

And it’s particularly untrue for online advertising because streaming video isn’t interrupted in the same way TV is. That ad is very often pre-roll, placed front and center on your computer screen, unavoidable (at least for a few seconds) if you want to see what comes next.  

But conversely, if those ads work, you’ve got a super-attentive consumer. You can easily argue online advertisers should have many more versions of commercials for online consumption.

It’s usually the other way around. Business Week says NBC sold $50 million in digital ads for the Winter Olympics, not much compared to the 800 million dollar bills TV advertisers will pay. But I’d take $50 million. It’s not nothing.

The small pool of advertisers, NBC says, is part of the network’s plan. Only the biggest TVadvertisers got a chance to buy digital video ads. Which, it sounds to me, means that large advertisers, by their largesse, were gifted with the opportunity to place their message in an advertising environment that is annoying precisely because there are so few other advertisers. Such a deal.

NBC, for its part said the restriction exists so online could handle the overwhelming demand, the old we-had-to-destroy-the-village-to-save it rationale.

But the bottom line fact seems to be that NBC had a chance to create a unique and much aggressive ad strategy for online than it chose to pursue. Just as virtually every television-centric media group has always done, most of the time the biggest mass entertainment entities—read that ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox—choose to be digital footnotes, not bold chapters.

2 comments about "Ennui See: Same Old Same Old Ads on NBC's Olympics Stream".
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  1. Michael Kaplan from Blue Sky Creative, February 12, 2014 at 4:34 p.m.

    I don't understand why they don't include "house" ads in the mix -- promos for upcoming events and programs. It's not like NBC and NBC sports don't have a library of :20s, :30s and :60s they could sprinkle in there.

    At the very least, it would certainly avoid the miserable user experience.....

  2. Jim Lillicotch from, February 12, 2014 at 7:09 p.m.

    I stream things because I dropped cable years ago, but the morons at NBC won't let me watch live events because I don't have a cable provider.

    Am I surprised they botched this, too?

    The whole thing has left me with a don't give a crap feeling about the games

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