Should TV Networks Program Their Commercials?

TiVo has just made a case for TV networks to start programming commercials.

Last year TiVo said six of the 10 most-viewed commercials seen in DVR playback mode during 2008 were spots for theatrical film releases. The best of the bunch was Universal Pictures' "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which grabbed a 12 household rating during the April 10 installment of NBC's "The Office."

"American Idol" was one show that naturally carried a lot of weight for its commercial sponsors. Four of the top 10 most-viewed spots came in that program, including an ad for Paramount's theatrical film "The Love Guru." There were also two entertainment-styled commercials for the video game "Guitar Hero" in "Idol."

Other highly rated shows, like ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," posted two top viewing numbers for film commercials -- 20th Century Fox's "Australia" and Paramount's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

Ever since commercial ratings were instituted in the national TV marketplace two years ago, executives have thought about the next step. What would it be like if network didn't give each and every advertiser fair rotation in the always more valuable "A" positions? What if the better-tested ads got more of the "A" position, so networks could sell more "commercial viewing value" in the lead-out "B" and "C" positions?

What would marketers get? Network executives might tell you marketers get more responsibility for their creative, which is, in part, what they got with the introduction of commercial ratings in the past two years.  Perhaps that should now go a bit further.

Some media agencies such as Starcom MediaVest might agree. After all , they proposed looking at exact minute commercial ratings. And even then, Starcom and others are sifting further -- examining second-by-second viewing as well.  

It wouldn't make sense to stick a movie or entertainment commercial in virtually every "A" position. But it would be smart to analyze which spots have been more entertaining/better viewed.

Cable networks are already kind of in this business. Many run their networks' program promos right after program segments and before actual commercials begin to run. These networks know how valuable that spot is. While they want to sell lots of advertising, their first need is for viewers to become aware of their programs.  Without that awareness, there would be fewer viewers to begin with, and advertisers to sponsor those shows.



 Should broadcasters take a hint?

8 comments about "Should TV Networks Program Their Commercials?".
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  1. Michael Josefowicz from Josefowicz Associates, January 23, 2009 at 10:33 a.m.

    Short answer is yes. Besides alot of commercials are more fun to watch then the shows. I particularly like the Progressive commercial that I seen a gezillion times on MSNC.

    It would also make a lot of sense for editors of Print/Web newspapers to edit ads in the Print version and most especially on the web version.

    Consider: advertising books done by a columnist next to the column...and sold by the newspaper direct. If advertising doesn't want to use newspapers to advertise their products, then newspapers should sell their own products and get out of the advertising game and into the selling stuff business.

    Much better business model.

  2. Ira Berger from The Richards Group, January 23, 2009 at 10:39 a.m.

    Be careful what you wish for; the commercial report card will include many failing grades

  3. William Hughes from Arnold Aerospace, January 23, 2009 at 10:40 a.m.

    Considering that Pharmacutical Companies often air Advertisments for "Adult Products" at time when Children are certainly watching (Such as Afternoon Sporting Events) and sometimes even during Children's Shows themselves I'd like to see a Law passed REQUIRING Commercials to be Scheduled, and that these Schedules be posted in the Program Guides. That way parents can use the information to shield their Children from these abomonitations.

  4. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 23, 2009 at 11:24 a.m.

    Yes. The downside is that when networks start listing their spots ahead of time, as some commenters below suggest, it then gives the competition a leg up on knowing what clients are where. When I was in the business, we'd pay someone to listen to the competition to learn who they had sold spots to. A program schedule of spots would save the trouble.

    As for shielding children, good luck. It's 2009, not 1959, and the world is a rude, crude place full of nasty t-shirts, bumper stickers, and foul-mouthed people in public. You'd have to move to Utah and home-school your kids to approximate the bubble that the commenter below wants.

  5. A. winslow Barger from Freelancer, January 23, 2009 at 11:53 a.m.

    Should broadcasters take a hint?? What? As a promotion producer for a broadcast station one of my duties has been programing promos since the early '90s. We have always programed our promos at the front or end of the break. That's common practice. I guess we took the hint at least a couple decades ago. And since it was one of the first things I was taught, I'm guessing it was done long before I started scheduling them.

  6. Josef Loeffler from Blue Star Benefits, January 23, 2009 at 5:37 p.m.

    Why regulate when the advertisers are just mis-targeting their ads (their excess will lead to the downfall of the marketers).

  7. Jeff H., January 23, 2009 at 11:50 p.m.

    Speaking of Viagra and Cialis spots. It just goes to show that money is more important to the TV stations than morals. It's apparently OK so have a Viagra spot that says "erection" any time of the day. It doesn't bother me because I'm a single guy who lives alone but if I had kids I would cringe! I'm sure some parents have gotten the question, "What's an erection?" thanks to those commercials.

  8. Rebecca Rachmany from AdsVantage, January 25, 2009 at 5:18 a.m.

    In theory, the idea has its merits, but it's not going to end up in the interest of the broadcasters. People can schedule to watch just the ads they want, and mostly they don't. If you just schedule some ads, the other ones are by default booked as "not too interesting".

    There are also some technological issues associated with this. While StarCom Mediavest is on the right path to ask for second-by-second viewership, it's quite possible there are some inconsistencies between the planned viewing times and the actual viewing times on a second-by-second basis. While it is possible for broadcasters and service providers to resolve these technical inconsistencies, that would involve costs on the side of the service provider, while providing benefits primarily to the advertisers.

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