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.’

Google launches a campaign about news connections

The search engine is using archival footage to convey what Canadians are interested in.

Google Canada and agency Church + State have produced a new spot informed by research from the search giant that suggests it is a primary connector for Canadians to the news that matters to them – a direct shot across the bow of the legislators presently considering Bill C-18.

In a spot titled “Connecting you to all that’s news,” the search giant harnesses archival footage reflective of many of the issues Canadians care about deeply, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, truth and reconciliation and the war in Ukraine, to demonstrate the point that many Canadians turn to Google as a gateway to the information and news they’re seeking.

“From St. John’s to Victoria and everywhere in between, when Canadians want to understand or get updated on the most pressing topics, Google connects them to the news sources that provide it,” says Laura Pearce, head of marketing for Google Canada. “All of us at Google are proud to be that consistent and reliable connection for Canadians to the news they’re searching for.”

In some ways, the goal of the campaign was to tap into the varied emotional responses that single news stories can have with different audiences across the country.

“News may be factual, but how people respond to it can be very emotional,” explains Ron Tite, founder and CCO at Church + State. “Importantly, those emotions aren’t universal. One news story can create completely different reactions from different people in different places. Because of that, we simply wanted to let connecting to news be the focus of this campaign. We worked diligently to license a wide variety of actual news footage that we felt would resonate with Canadians.”

The campaign can be seen as a statement by the search provider on Bill C-18 – the Online News Act – that is currently being deliberated by a parliamentary committee. That legislation seeks to force online platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Alphabet’s Google to pay news publishers for their content, echoing a similar law passed in Australia in 2021. The Act has drawn sharp rebukes from both companies, with Facebook threatening to ban news sharing on its platform.

Google Canada is not commenting on whether this new campaign is a response to C-18, but it has been public in its criticism of the legislation. In testimony delivered to parliament and shared on its blog, Colin McKay, the company’s head of public policy and government relations, said, “This is a history-making opportunity for Canada to craft world-class legislation that is clear and principled on who it benefits.” However, he noted that C-18 is “not that legislation.”

The campaign launched on Oct. 24 and is running through December across cinema, OLV, OOH, podcast, digital and social. Airfoil handled the broadcast production.