It's the Medium AND the Message
By Chris Rohrs -- Broadcasting & Cable, 12/12/2004 7:00:00 PM
It hasn't been easy being a Notre Dame football fan lately. We're 10 years into a stretch of mediocre coaching and all the problems that come with that. But I'm a loyal grad, and what can I do but watch the games each week on NBC and hope (and agitate) for better days.
Too often, the game results churn my stomach into pure acid. Even the commercial breaks haven't been easy. One spot in particular has really gotten under my skin. It's for a throat lozenge. The actor is playing golf, poorly, and keeps trying to yell “fore,” but his scratchy throat won't issue the sound. His errant shots hit a succession of unfortunate golfers with graphic, sickening thuds. I didn't like the spot the first time I saw it. By the 20th occurrence, it was beyond irritating; it was an immediate turn-off. Literally.
It got me thinking about commercial wear-out. As media audiences have fragmented, viewing, listening and reading have become more specialized, and ads that target these smaller, narrower slices of consumers run a higher risk of fatigue. This is especially true of cable networks with microscopic audiences who tend to watch repetitively.
You can't keep banging people over the head with the same message without risking a tune-out, particularly if the spot is in any way annoying or ineffective. In truth, the risk is even greater than just a tune-out; the campaign can become an active negative.
What all of this suggests to me is that we need to be paying a lot more attention to the messages, the creative content. I'm a media guy, but things like selection and skillful placement are not enough if the message is weak or overplayed. The risks will only increase as digital-video-recorder penetration approaches 25%, sometime around 2007. The DVR facilitates commercial-skipping, and video-on-demand will give viewers even more options to avoid advertising messages.
Great spots are the ultimate antidote to commercial-avoidance, and multiple versions and freshened executions can move us in the right direction. There is new technology on the horizon to facilitate these improvements.
Visible World is a company that has begun to offer answers to these challenges. It is enhancing the effectiveness of commercial exposures by enabling affordable, rapid-turn customization. Spots can be better matched to the context and the audience and can be tweaked continuously.
The TV commercial is the lifeblood of our ad-supported industry, and we need to recognize the challenges and work harder and smarter to improve its impact. Spot TV allows advertisers to target messages at high-potential consumers very precisely. If we maximize that potential with messages that really connect to those audiences, we'll go a long way toward making our business proposition safe in the digital era.
Instead of one spot running all season in Notre Dame football giving me a pain, what about a message that takes into account the direction of the season and connects to my pain! Now you've created a real opportunity to sell me on your product.
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