Clutter on the rise

Advertisers who continue to pay big bucks for airtime they know is cluttered with too many television commercials are just wasting their money, says a media management expert. David Stanger, a Vancouver-based consultant, says it's a losing proposition to buy ads...

Advertisers who continue to pay big bucks for airtime they know is cluttered with too many television commercials are just wasting their money, says a media management expert.

David Stanger, a Vancouver-based consultant, says it’s a losing proposition to buy ads in an environment that’s cluttered with competing messages.

‘The worst enemy of the advertiser are commercial breaks that start people racing around the dial with the remote. The more commercials, the more clutter, the more it’s going to fragment the viewing and take away time spent watching the commercials we want them to see as advertisers.’

Unfortunately, says Stanger, he doesn’t see the situation changing until the balance shifts between inventory demand and availability. And he doesn’t see demand ebbing as long as advertisers have a competitive bone in their bodies.

‘For every advertiser that steps up to take a stand, there are two waiting to grab the available airtime,’ he says.

The Association of Canadian Advertisers, which monitors ad minutes per hour through an annual study, has been a vocal opponent of clutter creep for the past few years, although it has not launched a formal complaint with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission or directly approached offending broadcasters.

The ACA’s latest study, based on data collected last fall, shows that 80% of measured programming continues to contain more than the regulation 12 minutes per hour of advertising.

Bob Reaume, vice-president, media and research for the ACA, pegs the national average at 14 minutes and 40 seconds per hour across all dayparts.

He says the clutter isn’t quite as noticeable in the Toronto market where there is a larger inventory of airtime, but in markets like Calgary and Vancouver, the offences are staggering.

In Calgary, the study found an average of 15 minutes, 30 seconds per hour in the 4-6 p.m. period and 15 minutes, eight seconds from noon to 4 p.m.

A full 93% of all hours measured in Vancouver, Monday to Friday, noon to 4 p.m. were over the 12-minute limit, with the average being 16 minutes, 15 seconds.

‘We [the advertisers] have an investment in this medium and it’s just a shame that no one wants to take steps to shore this up,’ says Reaume. ‘It’s really very short-sighted.

‘The viewer is jaded enough,’ he says, adding: ‘We have research that shows that the more commercials that run in a program, the less likely that the consumer will remember your commercial.

‘Twelve minutes seems like a reasonable amount of time to us. But when it gets up to 20 minutes [as in the U.S.], I can’t blame the consumer for using the remote control to start looking for other programming.’

In the U.S., clutter has soared to its highest level ever, 16.43 minutes per prime time hour (59 seconds higher than the previous year) according to the annual Television Commercial Monitoring Report from the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers.

The report also states that U.S. daytime network clutter rose to a new level of 20.53 minutes per hour on average.

That disparity between the amount of U.S. ad time and the allowable number of minutes in Canada has contributed to the problem in this country.

Broadcasters importing U.S. programming have had to fill those gaps. To that end, last summer, the CRTC added several exclusions to its 12-minute-per-hour rule, including the promotion of any Canadian program or feature film and cross-promotions between stations and networks.

Ken Johnson, vice-president of sales for Global Television Network says Global stays within the CRTC guidelines and fills the gaps using promotional messages, news and weather breaks, sports and entertainment minutes, or other vignettes.

‘This country is affected by U.S. product. We buy U.S. product and they determine how much commercial time to run in it. We don’t. We’re allowed 12 minutes and that’s what we run.’

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group