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Latest TiVo Killer Is Just Another Failure


Try as they might, advertisers can't make us absorb their message.

According to a Boston College study, seven out of 10 television viewers (at least those with TiVo (TIVO) or a DVR, which is pretty much anyone with a TV these days) fast-forward through commercials. The study also claims that those 70% pay the closest attention to the center of the screen while skipping through ads at 20 times normal speed.

The researchers say this is good news for advertisers, as long as their commercials feature their brands in the center of the screen.

Advertisers have been trying to figure out ways to "beat" TiVo since its inception, and now a company called Grasshopper claims to have cracked the code. Grasshopper created a spot that places its mascot, an animated grasshopper named Gary, smack in the middle of the screen. The creature stays in a fixed position for the entire 30 seconds, so if the viewer fast-forwards, they see a constant image of Gary.

Take a look at the commercial: TV Commercial - TiVo-Proof

Grasshopper's Facebook page trumpets the company's big breakthrough in the ad wars:
For the Grasshopper commercial we had to hit on the two key elements to reach our DVR-centric audience:
  • Create brand awareness
  • Grab attention at high fast forward speeds
So what did we do?
  • We put our mascot, Gary, into an animation where he is centered, staring at you throughout the spot even as you fast forward through the commercial
  • Added a cool morphing effect that kept his face centered but the background constantly changing
Fast forward the commercial and the message (and the visual) isn't lost.
Well, the visual may not be lost. But the message sure is.

In fact, the new Grasshopper "solution" is hardly "TiVo-proof."

As Gawker's Hamilton Nolan notes, without sound, all that's left of the ad is a drawing of an anthropomorphic insect. It's a new company and a new product and requires, at the very minimum, some explanation.

Even watching at regular volume, it's fairly difficult to make heads or tails of what it is that Grasshopper does, exactly. Here's the copy from the ad:
What do I love about my Grasshopper virtual phone system? Everything. Grasshopper makes my small business sound more professional and keeps me connected no matter where I am. Features include a toll-free number, custom main greeting, voicemail-to-email, and extensions for each of my departments and employees. It's quite simple, really. The Grasshopper virtual phone system helps entrepreneurs like me and you start and grow our small business. Sign up at
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