Who's Really Accountable For Live Commercial Ratings -- The Creative(s) Or The Networks?

  • by September 22, 2008
As we kick off another Advertising Week in NY, one topic that's bound to be burning up Madison Ave. this year is the somewhat bizarre change in television ratings that suddenly has the television and cable networks entertaining a wide variety of mixed measurements. It seems that in addition to the once sacred program ratings, they are now, in many cases, accountable for delivering live commercial ratings.

But, wait... isn't that the job of the creatives responsible for making the commercials? That they are both "watchable" and memorable?

What's wrong with this picture?

For as long as this executive creative director has been in the business of making commercials, our industry has always held the networks responsible for delivering the audience to the commercial. PERIOD. Then, if we were any good, it was our job to make sure that we were intriguing, involving and persuasive enough in our storytelling to hold the viewer's attention and get them to recall our message. With a laugh. A smile. A tear. Something that rewarded them for the time they spent watching.



Enter the age of PVR ad skippage, and suddenly we agency folk want our cake -- and we want to eat it, too. So, let's just bury those average ASI copy test scores away in a drawer and demand that the networks not only deliver us the audience, but ensure that our 85% watered-down, mention-the-product-name-three-times, sing the benefit, burn in the brand name executions are performing at a ratings level commensurate with the program rating that used to be enough to satisfy any media buyer. My, the times they are a-changin'.

No wonder the networks are forced to place Hollywood's movie trailers in the "A position" of the break instead of our average packaged goods, "more moms" claim-filled, feature/benefit, 0% financing, anti-lock brakes on-board, DVD/GPS-laden tonnage of commercials that don't have a real chance of avoiding ad-skipping. They might have nabbed an ASI score that got the brand team nodding and got us shooting somewhere sunny. But their chances of getting a decent live commercial rating from consumers actually watching? Better make that the network's responsibility, not ours.

From this creative's perspective, our commercials had better start getting more entertaining and more accountable -- before the measurement gurus, who are already using IP-based data to measure us down to the nano in digital engagement, expose us for what we have become on television: lazy. Sure, there's always that standout group of spots that consumers love seeing time and time again, that could hold up to a live commercial rating in a PVR world -- but there's just not enough of them. So keep bringing in the movie trailer, please.

As an agency community, are we so afraid to take accountability for the intrigue of our own spots that we're willing to push it off on the networks to "hold" viewers there and make 'em watch us? Or is it because we're all really hacks, just waiting for our one big eureka spot idea to get shot so we can prove we're really TiVO proof? Or is it because we're content to allow brand marketers to affect the copy in the majority of our executions to such an extent, that 85-90% of what we're putting out there might just as well be skipped?

Seem like our financial institutions aren't the only ones out there in crisis.

Wait... here's an alternative. Why not just slug our skip-worthy spots into online video pre-rolls that can't be skipped, and where we're all alone in the pod so we can pay a super premium CPM. That'll make sure they get seen -- again, and again, and again.

Seriously, though, if we creative's are going to accept a PVR-enabled world, we had better get busy thinking about narratives that get the viewer's attention first, and worry about who's shooting and where we're shooting much later. We can't just hide behind the tonnage of media dollars we're spending on television as a reason to make the networks responsible for the lackluster performance of our own creative.

If we're really any good, our spots should be memorable enough to earn a live commercial rating that reflects our own ability to intrigue, involve and entertain viewers. Not just one that earned us a test score worthy of taking up space in a brand manager's drawer.

Next story loading loading..