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A Misapprehension of On Demand

Posted by: Jon Fine on November 29, 2005

Am I totally wrong here, or is TiVo’s idea to make TV ads searchable a screwy misunderstanding of what on-demand is?

TiVo’s move is based around an advertiser’s ego-move—the assumption that ads are programming. They’re not. They’re pitches. They’re come-ons. They’re the noise TiVo was invented to skip. No one is going to hit a button in order to watch a Subway ad. No one watches car commercials to research their next purchase.

I read someone suggesting that the big—only?—consumer application will be kids watching titllating beer commercials. (When I say “I read someone suggesting,” it means “I can’t find it right now.”) Of course. It’s not like there’s a thousand places to see scantily clad women on the cable (or even broadcast) dial.

TV ads are the ad industry’s closest analogue to movies. But, unlike with movies, what gratifies agency types and marketers and what gratifies audiences is not the same thing.

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Reader Comments

Bruce Braun

November 29, 2005 12:36 PM

I spent 12 years selling network TV time and can attest to your comments. Network TV advertising, including the upfront are classic examples of the emperor not having any clothes. Perhaps 40 years ago that might not have been true. Today however, it is quite the opposite. The brands, agencies and networks have been engaged in the innane exercise of the upfront that only benefits their respective egos and self-annointed importance. Add to that mentality that just about every creative director sees themselves as a "film maker" and you will understand why the majority of agencies use their reels of TV spots as primary evidence of their creativity and capability. Ridley Scott is the icon of agency CD's as one who crossed over from 30 sec films to 120 minute ones. TiVO's new gimmick is just that: a gimmick. PVR's provide us all with an escape from the roughly 24 to 36 commerical and promotional ads each and every hour of the day. Anyone stupid enough to buy into this BS of searching TV spots is a poster child for the greater fool theory of advertising. What does this say about the way TV networks and TiVo view the intelligence of advertisers?

Steve Van Hook

November 29, 2005 02:21 PM

I can think of several reasons why someone may want to search out advertising. 1) As ads become more creative to stand out in the muddle, word-of-mouth on a particularly outstanding commercial may prompt others to seek it out. 2) As (if) ads become more informative, someone may indeed seek out advertisements for product information. 3) Ads may become more interactive, such as the Lexus commercials where viewers sought out the spots to gather clues to win a free car. If we are to believe that commercials may serve some sort of public good, then why should we not believe the public may seek them out? If commercials serve no public good, than what's the point of any of it?

John Voelcker

November 29, 2005 03:48 PM

Actually, I like it. It's a backhanded way to put pressure on advertisers & agencies to build better (more compelling) ads.

All TiVO needs to do is issue regular reports on what ads get downloaded. Betcha it'll be the unusual, catchy, quirky, clever ones, e.g. the 2 guys riding around in the VW with the stinky couch.

Once ads are actually rated by users ... watch the race begin!


December 1, 2005 01:40 AM

This is funny, remember in the movie "Demolition Man" with sly stallone? Everybody's favourite radio channel was the one that played jingles from ads in the 90's? Could this be the start of something similar?

Jon Fine

December 1, 2005 02:29 AM

Given all the easily accessible independent and quasi-independent sources for product information, I can't imagine ads becomeing a major information source. Kind of a blatantly biased source, no?

The interesting thing will be seeing what gets downloaded most. But a good creative ad doesn't always make for a good ad. Witness the flap over among Burger King franchisees, who have been grumbling loudly over Crispin's left-field TV ads. Beloved by press types like me; unloved by those they're purporting to serve. Which, after all, is the point of advertising. They're not there for the public good; they're there for the companies they're serving.

steve baker

December 3, 2005 02:23 PM

hey, that was ME talking about the beer commercials.

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