Ad avoidance: More relevance required

An early-adopter acquaintance has been using a Bell ExpressVu PVR since November, and based on his experience, predicts that as prices come down, 'there will likely be massive adoption.'
The industry has long known commercial-skipping capability was out there, in the form of VCRs and digital video recorders like TiVo and ReplayTV, but have the efforts to prep for advertising avoidance kept pace?

An early-adopter acquaintance has been using a Bell ExpressVu PVR since November, and based on his experience, predicts that as prices come down, ‘there will likely be massive adoption.’

The industry has long known commercial-skipping capability was out there, in the form of VCRs and digital video recorders like TiVo and ReplayTV, but have the efforts to prep for advertising avoidance kept pace?

Now that folks have taken on the task of being their own personal network programmers, current stats indicate they watch less than half the spots they used to, and one in five fast-forward through them all. Buddy’s clan falls into the latter category, trying not to watch any commercials at all, other than during some live program viewing like news.

One of the main tactics marketers have been fighting clutter and PVR-enabled commercial avoidance with is embedded advertising. The methodology varies. In the U.S., ReplayTV (which lets you skip spots automatically) is selling pause-screen ad spots. TiVo enables users to access longer-form content from marketers, which, if it’s a topic they care about, they might actually opt for, like the BMW Films flagged for F1 fans.

That’s the key. It has to be accepted, rather than just endured.

So, it’s somewhat ironic that many marketers have been bent on beefing up the inevitability of seeing their product. Plans range from sponsorship and product placement pumped up by elaborate multi-media programs, right up to branded content wherein advertisers foot the bill and call the shots (see special report, page 26).

The problem inherent in this is the acceptance thing. The Doritos in-your-faceness on Survivor probably works in the context of starving reality show folk genuinely salivating for chips (so it’s just kinda’ funny, me sitting here with my whole bag o’ Doritos, and not having to stand on one leg all day, or whatever), but there’s been a lot of extreme product placement, going under the moniker product integration, that has been less seamlessly written into scripts. The $9 million Ford Motor Co. music segment sponsorship deal with The Tonight Show that calls for a stage decorated with Lincolns is not even the clunkiest example. The ABC deal putting Revlon into the All My Children script for three months as a rival to the cosmetics co. in the soap may well work, as the plot was said to originate with the show’s writers; however, at some point, all the action in this space will tick off viewers, unless there’s a pay-off for them.

In the world of skateboarding (and I’m talking the real enthusiasts, not the lifestyle/fashion demo spawned around it – as per the cover story), skate co.s have been doing branded content for a long time. Many of the skateboarding videos in our house are openly, blatantly and proudly emblazoned with numerous brands logos, their boards are used and their skate teams are featured. Ditto with the presence at events. It’s truly part of the entertainment. Is it accepted because kids know none of it would be available to them if Tensor or Blind weren’t footing the bill? Or because it’s not some forced – applied from external forces – content? I think it’s a combo; the factor that makes branded content generally work or not is being authentic – and supplying information or entertainment that a consumer genuinely wants. The reverse-engineered stuff often strikes a false note.

The aggressive content integration plans of marketers are not restricted to TV; we’ve seen it in newspapers, magazines and even books (Faye Weldon’s The Bulgari Connection), and many are multi-media. So, unless everyone working these deals ensures they’re adding value for the consumer, not adding to some cumulative logo-backlash effect, once again marketers will be looking for the next thing. If you want to successfully create content associated with your brand, not just ads, go where there’s a real desire for content – like the skateboard companies do. Come at it from a programmers’ P.O.V. – where’s there an unfilled niche?

Fortunately, if your product does not happen to fit into the script of The Hughleys or Friends, ADexact, a Canadian company, is working on targeting spots to individual households based on profiling consumers (see story p. 8). At ADexact, they believe relevance – to the consumer, not the media congloms – is key.

Mary Maddever

Editor

mmaddever@brunico.com