On TV: Making the TV advertisement enjoyable
Feb 02, 2013 (Ames Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Tonight is the annual showcase of the high-budgeted and lavish advertisements of the year: the Super Bowl.
This year, a 30-second ad is commanding just south of $4 million -- that's more than $100,000 per second. While the Super Bowl is usually the most-watched event of the year, it is one of the most pointless nights for brands.
Actually, I'll go a step further and say most advertising on TV isn't worth that much.
According to media research company Nielsen, less than half of consumers trust television advertising, which has lost 24 percent of its consumer confidence since 2009. And according to consulting firm Accenture, brand loyalty is down.
One 30-second commercial tonight isn't going to change those statistics.
Beyond the Super Bowl, these commercials aren't that powerful or memorable. They are those few minutes every so often when you can go to the kitchen, read your email or view the channel guide to see if anything else is on.
What can make commercials better
I've stated in this column before that back in the 1990s, Nick at Nite, Nickelodeon's evening lineup that aired TV shows from the early days of television, had some of the most brilliant ads on television.
Granted, the actual commercials during Nick at Nite were ones you would see on any other network. But its in-house promotions were retro-esque commercials that fit the theme of the programming. They poked fun at, yet celebrated its classic programs. It created an environment that was unique to Nick at Nite.
Watching a TV show or block of programs should be like a portal. Everything that airs, commercials included, should not distract you from the program at hand. Commercials should be a part of the viewing experience.
Some shows have already experimented with it. The most recent Target ads place characters from "Suburgatory" at a Target store where they debate what to buy. It works because they are the show's characters. I'm not going to skip something that includes them.
Last season, a "Revenge" episode had a storyline that built up to a final scene at a party promoting Target and Neiman Marcus.
It was really silly and quite cheesy, but a fan would watch it. It went a little farther than product placement because it made the product a part of the plot.
These ideas aren't new.
Integrating advertising into shows from the 1950s like "The Jack Benny Show" was natural because each show would have only one sponsor. Instead of commercial breaks in the middle of the program, there would be a short sketch that integrated the show's sponsor. In "Jack Benny's" case it was Lucky Cigarettes.
We shouldn't bring back the one-sponsor show. Television's purpose is to entertain, not to sell a product or brand. But that doesn't mean those advertisers can't be a bigger part of the show's experience.
"Mad Men" once had advertisements done in a 1960s retro style to match the show's setting. I really looked forward to them; they were part of the viewing experience.
Advertisers should also be moving the second screen forward.
Since the second screen is still young, it has plenty of flexibility and experimental potential. It should be an advertiser's dream. It doesn't distract from the actual program because the second screen is only on a laptop, tablet or computer.
When you see a product on a program, the second screen could show you more details and how to purchase it instantly. This could even include apps and other little background items the casual viewer might not recognize. It'd be like a pop-up video with some ads that aren't unwanted.
The one warning that arises is not to take this product placement too far. (I often find it annoying on Food Network and TLC.) No one wants something as in-your-face as Little Orphan Annie telling you to drink your Ovaltine.
The second screen is still a part of the user experience that the big fans opt in for. Mining this resource gives the fans what they want, and it also brings in an even more targeted demographic for advertisers.
Commericals have always been the way networks pay for their shows. It will be hard to uproot the model that has been around since the 1950s. But as the big networks start to crumble and the entertainment industry begins to look at private investors to help finance projects -- it's already starting in the movie industry -- the advertising model finally has an opportunity to change.
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