News Articles

It's the Medium AND the Message

12/12/2004 07:00:00 PM Eastern

Author Information
Rohrs is president of the Television Bureau of Advertising.

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.

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

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.

Author Information
Rohrs is president of the Television Bureau of Advertising.


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