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Which Ads Don't Get Skipped?

Posted by: Burth Helm on August 24, 2007

My colleague Jon Fine is on vacation, so I filled in to write BW’s MediaCentric column this week. In the column I took a look at a surprising set of data from TiVo about the which TV commercials get fast-forwarded the least. blog bowflex.jpg

We put together a compilation of several of the least-Tivo’d ads from June (the latest month data was available) so you can watch them.

Even I have to say, if it weren’t for the fact that TiVo observed real behavior from 20,000 households, I’d be extremely skeptical of these results. Few of the least-skipped spots are very entertaining. A handful of direct ads made it into the mix, and have consistently since TiVo started ranking them in April. What’s more, few of them come from well-known ad agencies. There are exceptions, but most just put the product or service front and center.

In the column I argue that smart placement and targeting is the key to getting people to watch your ad. Whether it’s the Harry Potter movie, the Onstar system, or Bowflex, I think people watched these ads because they were specifically interested in the product. But I’m still having trouble figuring out if there is any common thread in the creative that keeps people watching.

After you check them out, I’d love to hear any theories (or, if you think I’m full of it, dissenting opinions) in the comments section. A text list of the least fast-forwarded ads from June is available after the jump.

Least Fast-Forwarded Brand Campaigns
All Measured Networks – Daytime & Primetime

1. CORT Furniture Rentals
2. Dominican Republic Tourism
3. Hooter’s Restaurant
4. IDT Long Distance INTL Residential
5. Tax Masters Tax Service Con Svc
6. Skyteam Airline Network

Broadcast Networks - Primetime

1. Bowflex Exercise Equipment DR
2. OnStar Vehicle Monitoring Sys
3. Hyundai Autos Sonata Leasing
4. Warner Bros Harry Potter/Order/PHNX
5. Lunesta Sleep RX
6. Plavix Blood Thinner RX

Reader Comments


August 24, 2007 12:19 PM

This TiVo data is not that hard to figure out. For a different perspective and an explanation of its meaning, please have a look at "Myths Exploding, Mysteries Unraveling" at

David Sleight

August 24, 2007 2:00 PM

Here's a thought: It's less about the ad content, and more about user behavior. A lot of those crummier ads on the list are in super heavy rotation on cable during the wee, small hours when people are just vacillating in front of the TV, not really caring much about what they're watching. You don't really mind that you're staring at the BowFlex ad for the umpteenth time because you're in no rush to skip ahead to that seven year old rerun of The X-Files. (What can I say? I'm an insomniac.)


August 24, 2007 2:20 PM

Just like every other study that's been done to figure which ads "work," this one means absolutely nothing.

Russell Campbell

August 24, 2007 2:48 PM

First, I'd like more info on how they determined these "least skipped" ratings. You didn't mention anything about that. If they merely recorded which were skipped and which weren't, then there are going to be natural variations on that tied to unimportant things such as people just forgetting they were watching recorded video and could fast forward, getting up to go to the bathroom or get a bite to eat, etc. These natural variations will put some ads at the top and some at the bottom of the list, yet that data will be meaningless.

Second, of course people watch the Bowflex commercials. Surely you've seen those hotties! It's almost impossible to skip those commercials.

Third, it really disgusts me that media outlets would charge you more for an effective commercial. It's your effort that makes it successful, not the media outlet's. Their cost does not go up if the commercial is successful (at least in the traditional media such as TV), yet they would charge you more? That's just an egregious example of capitalism's greedy tendancy to try to extract more money from someone with deeper pockets for the same exact product.

James Hipkin

August 24, 2007 3:18 PM

First, responding to David Sleight's comment, the ads were viewed on TiVo which means they were probably time shifted to a more reasonable hour.

What you are seeing is what direct marketers have always known. Put a meaningful product benefit and offer in front of interested consumers and they will pay attention. If they aren't interested, aren't in the market, it doesn't matter what you show them they won't see it.

TiVo's ability to show that consumers are skipping ads doesn't mean they weren't doing it before. It just means they now have access to a tool to help them ignore what doesn't interest them. Purveyors of brand / image ads take note.

Martin Calle

August 24, 2007 11:21 PM

I like to buy M&Ms because they melt in my mouth, not in my hands. I like to buy Chunky Soup because it's the Soup You Eat With A Fork. I like to buy Folgers because The Best Part of Waking Up Is Caffiene in my cup. I like to buy Tylenol Gelcaps because they are the original Inherently Tamper-Proof Capsules. These are not taglines. These Special User Effects give a product its reason-for-being, and the consumer something to chew on. Otherwise, the advertising is in one ear and out the other - TIVO'd or not. Remember, in today's here today, gone tomorrow buzz du jour advertising society, far more advertising is forgotten than remembered.
Martin Calle
Chief of Strategy
Disruptive Consumer Intelligence
The Calle School for Product Intelligence

James W. Taylor

August 25, 2007 7:10 PM


I used to work for a very large advertising agency named Benton & Bowles. The theme for the agency was simple, "If it doesn't sell, it isn't creative".

That "creative" crap you seem to admire is not meant to sell anything other than the "creative" members of the agency producing it to other agencies "creative" members.

Isn't amazing that people actually pay attention to advertising that conveys information they are actually interested in knowing?

If you really want to understand what advertising is and how it works, find a copy of "How To Develop A Successful Advertising Plan". Incidentally, it is the most referred to book in the Chiat/Day library (and if that is not a creative agency, I don't know who is).

And always remember, advertising is still simply a business that replaces sales people making personal sales calls.

And good media planning is simply really knowing who your best prospective customers are and how to find them on air at the lowest cost. It ain't rocket science.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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