Is the TV Commercial Dying? Why What Happens Between the Commercials Has Become Even More Important

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My Senior Campaign Manager wrote a great piece the other day about the state of TV advertising and I thought it was so interesting I wanted to share it with you.

Maybe it’s me, but I read something the other day that made me wonder if I’m the only one who doesn’t see the logic here.

The Nielsen Company tracks the audience viewership of TV programs so that programmers and advertisers can get a handle on how many people are watching certain shows. Programmers take that data and figure out how much they’ll charge to advertise on their shows. Of course, they pay attention to key demographics and more granular statistics, but at the end of the day, this is the data that helps them figure out that they’re going to charge $3 million per minute to advertise on The Super Bowl broadcast and $1 – $3.80 per minute on reruns of the recent reboot of Hawaii Five-0.

I think I’ve got that right, but now Nielsen is tracking ratings for shows people record and watch on their DVRs later. They even have it segmented to track people who watch shows on the same day they record it and up to 7 days afterward. I just have one question, and forgive me if I seem obtuse here, “Why?”

Most people fast-forward through the commercials when they watch their favorite show on their DVR. I know I do. Even Nielsen acknowledges the phenomenon. They reported in 2010 that of the 33 percent of Americans that own a DVR, 56 percent fast-forward through commercials. Of course, this was not a survey of general Americans, but rather of Nielsen families who are accustomed to keeping an electronic diary of their viewing. So maybe they’re on slightly better behavior than the rest of us.

The key thing I’m wondering about is how much longer does the TV commercial have as an advertising tool? The trend is clear that the DVR is becoming more common and that people are typically using it to avoid the constant barrage of advertising they are subjected to every day. Billboards on the highway, commercials on the radio, banners and pop ups on the Internet, people are simply tired of the constant assault of advertising on their senses. So they use the DVR, they switch stations on the car radio when the commercials come on and many even choose more scenic routes for their morning commutes.

The upshot is this, as people reject advertising more and more, what happens between the commercials becomes more important. That’s why PR is still the best value for the money, because no matter what technology people come up with to block or ignore advertisements, they only do so because they are far more interested in what is happening on the shows they watch and listen to, and the publications they read online and offline. Moreover, advertisements lack any kind of third-party verification, and consumers have become so media savvy, they know the difference between an ad and a show. They know advertisers pay big money for those spots on The Super Bowl and on their favorite shows, and they understand that they control their messages. They also know, and generally trust, the editorial side of the media. That’s what they read online, what they listen to on radio and what they tune into when they watch TV.

You can’t buy that kind of trust with an ad and the only way you can get on the air or in editorial print coverage is through PR.

So don’t mourn for the TV commercial just yet. But feel free to wave as you pass it by on your way to your TV interview.

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