One of the great debates inside advertising circles is how much is too much? The typical American has the TV on for 5 hours and 9 minutes each day, of which 27% is paid advertising. Do the math and that’s 1 hour and 23 minutes of TV spots per day, or at 30 seconds per spot, 166 commercials a day.
Enter Mad Men. The Daily is reporting a catfight between the creator of the show, Matthew Weiner, and Cablevision executives, who are said to want to trim the length of Mad Men by 3 minutes to insert, yes, 6 more 30-second commercials. The AMC cable channel, you see, is part of Rainbow Media Holdings, a gem that Cablevision reportedly hopes to spin off soon in an IPO. Improving the financial performance of a business before going public is standard procedure, so what’s a few more spots?
Alas, Mad Men’s beautiful content would have to be cut. It is hard to believe that back in the 1960s U.S. TV viewers only saw 9 minutes of commercials per hour, vs. today’s 16-18 minutes. We love advertising, yes we do … but with 166 TV spots hitting you each day, how many more can possibly work?
Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.
We noted a year ago that cable systems Brighthouse, Cablevision, Charter, Comcast, Cox and Time Warner were in talks to launch a new ad targeting system. “Project Canoe” would use details on viewer demos to customize TV ads; say, if you have a pet, you’d see dog food commercials, while if your neighbors have girls, they would be served ads for Barbie Dolls while watching exactly the same channel.
Those one-to-one ads aren’t here yet, but Cablevision is out of the gate with another form of interactive TV ads — where consumers can get more information by clicking on their remote. Benjamin Moore is the first advertiser aboard; during its commercials a pop-up screen will invite viewers to hit “select” on their remote to receive a coupon for a color sample. Cablevision hopes to eventually add e-commerce capabilities (imagine clicking for more pizza during the Super Bowl). Could be a healthy move for beleaguered television; 53% of ad spending in the United States flows through direct marketing budgets, and if cable TV can go direct, wouldn’t Cablevision love to click on that?
Image: Ben Sciciuna.
Marketers have been growing nervous about digital video recorders, those boxes now in 1 out of 4 U.S. homes that allow consumers to easily skip over TV commercials. So they may have a heart attack after the Supreme Court cleared the way yesterday for Cablevision to offer virtual DVRs to its customers.
Sure, this looks like just another cable add-on — but as Josh Bernoff notes at Forrester, now Cablevision can launch DVR-type recording options on a system-wide basis vs. installing them gradually in individual homes. DVRs are great for consumers because you can pause regular TV programming during a bathroom break, record shows you don’t want to miss, watch things later, and yes, skip commercials. Bernoff predicts virtual DVRs with clever functionality will expand rapidly as Comcast, Cox, AT&T and others try to differentiate themselves from satellite providers DirecTV and Dish Networks with less-nimble on-demand services. We imagine, for instance, a cable company with unlimited storage could let you build a personal library of your favorite TV shows — a great switching cost to keep you from ditching Cablevision for satellite TV next year. Such services could even slash customer churn among the 7% of the U.S. population who moves each year to a new home, because you could now take your entire library with you remotely — as long as you stick with the same cable provider.
It’s not the end of the advertising world, certainly. Cable companies derive revenue from advertisers and won’t rush to kill their golden geese. Tim Hanlon, EVP of Viva Ki Venture, told the LA Times that advertisers could even use expansion of on-demand video to improve ad targeting.
Still, consumers gain a new remote. There is a huge market for content right now, when you want it, and remote DVRs when ubiquitous will give consumers great control over which messages they see or skip. Advertisers will have to rapidly build more relevant or integrated content if they want to avoid the fast forward button.
Image: Still from video Speed by Atzu.