Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Advertising in Fast-Forward

I just read an interesting article on WSJ about a study done to see how effective, if at all, television commercials are when people are fast-forwarding through them. I've always wondered how advertisers would adapt to DVR technology. It seemed that a lot of them turned online, where people play back TV episodes but because it's streaming, they are forced to watch the commercials. An even better advantage is the fact that there are not nearly as many online advertisements as there are TV advertisements, meaning companies can broadcast multiple commercials during a single episode online.

So DVR allows people to record their favorite TV programs, and then play them back, fast forwarding through the commercials. Obviously, if everyone was doing this, you would think advertisers would start sweating. Well...maybe not it seems. The study, done by NBC Universal, showed that people still remember atleast some elements of the ads they see, even if fast-forwarding through them very quickly. Obviously they can not retain the commercials as well as someone watching them live, but there's the kicker that advertisers are grasping.

There are some things that almost everyone watches live if they're going to watch it at all, such as sporting events (case in point: the Superbowl, the biggest day for television advertising). That being known, the study showed that, as would logically be the case, if viewers had seen the commercial live before, they would remember it better when seeing it in fast-forward. Therefore, many advertisers will probably seek out sporting events, award shows, news programs, and other shows that are often watched live in order to get their viewers to watch their advertisement live. Then, maybe they'll remember it when they fast-forward through it on another program. Other characteristics that proved better to the DVR-commercial viewer are familiar characters and a constant showing of the brand's logo. Ultimately, when you think about it, when viewers are fast-forwarding through these commercials, they probably will be giving the TV screen their complete attention so that they don't fast-forward too far.

It seems that some companies have adapted to this. Next time you see a Visa commercial, pay attention to the end. They flash to a white screen with just their logo and tagline, and hold it there while audibly advertising their logo and tagline too. So it works when seen live, and if fast-forwarded, chances are you will see the logo because we tend to focus our attention to the middle of the screen.

The future of TV advertising: solid colored screens with the logos in the middle, held for 15 or 30 seconds. Ok, probably not, but it's interesting to see that some advertisers are adapting to this technology. I'm sure many advertisers will display their website URL on their ads prominently in the same fashion that Visa is doing.

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