Commentary

Watching TV Is Exhausting, Ads Overwhelm

I have a confession: I don't watch a lot of TV. I watch most of my TV online these days.

But after the ANA conference, I thought I'd wind down before my flight back to New York by watching something on my hotel room TV. I gave up after half an hour, actually exhausted from having to watch obstreperous, occasionally offensive ads repeated again and again, sometimes twice during an ad pod. Inept media buys and grating creative: a deadly combination.

The day before, I had posted a blog about TiVo CEO Tom Rogers' breakfast presentation at the ANA conference. One response stated the obvious and validates my own viewing experience:

"People are turning to DVRs to skip commercials," said the respondent. "In the 1990s, one could expect to see 10 to 12 minutes of commercials for each hour of programming; now one can see as many as 26 minutes of advertising per hour!"

Rogers drew a parallel between the derivatives meltdown and the advent of ad-silencing gizmos. TiVo and its technological brethren are the consummation of a trend that marketers should have seen coming. "Consumers are in control," he said, adding that DVR devices like TiVo are in about 25 million households with around 60 million coming online over the next three years. (He said TiVo is in an estimated 3.5 million households.)

"The majority of TV is time-shifted, and the majority of time-shifted ads are fast-forwarded," said Rogers. "That's two-thirds of homes or more that advertisers care about reaching, and [those households] will be fast-forwarding those ads."

He says TiVo, with its variety of inventory, can serve ads without the repellent after-taste. "There are many ways to engage: tags full-screen billboards, insertions. And there are many more forms of inventory to come," he said. As for ROI, he said "The benefit of the right kinds of DVR ad placements are Internet-type measurement. We have second by second measurement tools to give TV advertising all the accountability of the Internet, and it's more cost effective than TV. So there's huge potential for increased efficiency." How about re-purposing a TV spot for TiVo? "Ads [for DVR] have to be more informative, interactive and immersive; they must be entertaining commercials with measurability, lead generation and [the ability to do] purchase transactions off remote control. I see a day when TV advertising is more powerful with better ROI, and better for consumer." The bottom line, per Rogers, is that marketers need to think of DVR as an opportunity not a threat. Way-ell, you can take that with a grain of sodium the size of the Bonneville Salt Flats, since Rogers is selling TiVo after all.

But if he's right, and he probably is, partly, creating that "tailored solution" for TiVo that will get households to watch your ads is on your shoulders. I don't care if TiVo lets me time-shift. It doesn't create more time. That ad better be damned entertaining/informative/irresistible to get me to hit the pause button.

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