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Television Advertising: Inappropriate for All Viewers


I'll be your rebound, Leif.


In these times of (relative) corporate belt-tightening and prosperity-through-lay-offs is there any line-item with more "bloat" and less demonstrable ROI than conventional television advertising?

Obviously readers of the 'Ville know scores of more offensive business practices on the Street and in corporate America at large than television advertising. That said, I can't think of anything of a discretionary expense nature this large ($20-odd-billion will be spent buying TV ad spots this year) where no one even seems to bother asking what they are getting for their spend.

The scattering of the captive audience from The Big Three (ABC, NBC, CBS) to 250-odd competing channels depending on your package should have raised some marketing eye-balls. Now that PVRs (Personal Video Recorders, see also: DVRS, TiVo) are finally reaching meaningful penetration rates (still small numbers, overall, but a body that contains the ostensibly perfect target audience for ads) dealing with the land-shift should be an obsession on Madison Avenue.

Slowly, very slowly, the old broadcasting stance that "skipping ads is like stealing TV" is bowing to the pressure of consumers with choice. That, of course, is the real issue here. PVRs aren't about skipping ads, they are about not wasting your freaking time. If folks are compelled to fast-forward through an ad the answer isn't "find a way to MAKE them watch" it's "find a way to show ads of things people are actually interested in enough to WANT to watch."

From there, if advertisers can figure out a way to learn exactly who those interested people (the ones likely to "buy something being advertised") are... well, at that point we'd have a nice alternative to the currently dominant M.O. of assuming that football fans will go out and buy that truck "if we can just make them watch 30-seconds of some macho dude driving through mud another 100 times!"

I'm in no way recomending the stock but a TiVo (TIVO) article (brought to my attention by The High Priestess of Macke HQ) illustrates why I have a hard time giving up on the company which, by all rights, should already be dead. For all of their stock-option-printing, no-cable-deal closing, terrible-partnership having problems, Tivo "gets it" regarding advertising's relationship with PVRs.

PVRs aren't the enemy of advertising any more than electric lights were the enemy of night. PVRs just "are". Consumers love them and if you don't have one already, you will. When you do you'll find that you don't just skip ads, you skip anything that doesn't interest you. While fewer ads are actually watched in that situation, the value of the information regarding the people who do watch an ad has enormous value.

Or at least that information should be of great value. Is the Tivo "pop-up while you skip" idea going to be THE solution for advertisers? Given TiVo's history of being unable to convert their obvious value-add to MSO's (DTV's churn w/ users of Tivo is lower than any other package from cable or sat) it seems unlikely.

But it is a glimpse of at least one solution to the PVR "problem" available to advertisers. With the amount of money at stake (and being wasted) it seems an ongoing development worth watching.

(Clearly the only disturbing thing about T.O. and Nicolette's hug was that it brought to mind the single greatest moment of the seminal program Behind the Music. Of course I'm speaking of Leif Garrett pining for Nicolette 15-odd years after the break-up. Seeing her hug beyond-buff T.O. may have pushed Leif over the edge. As long as Mr. Garrett wasn't watching MNF I fail to see the moral problem there.)

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