Marketing Pros: DVRs Have Advertisers ‘Freaked Out’

Jun 16, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Advertisers are “freaked out” about viewers using DVRs to skip commercials while they watch television. That’s the consensus among a few key television marketing professionals who gathered Thursday morning to discuss industry issues.

John Miller, chief marketing officer for NBC Universal Television Group and co-president of The NBC Agency, said the new media options available for viewers have more than confused advertisers, particularly because Nielsen Media Research has yet to figure out a way to measure viewership on the new platforms.

“It’s freaked out the advertisers,” he said. His colleagues agreed.

Michael Mischler, executive VP of marketing for Paramount Domestic Television, likened TiVo to “a light at the end of the tunnel that’s actually an oncoming train.” He echoed Mr. Miller’s assessment: “The advertisers are feeling freaked,” he said.

The discussion took place at TelevisionWeek‘s Power Breakfast: The New Television Marketing, Beyond the 30-Second Spot. The panel discussion was held at Le Meridian Hotel June 16 in Beverly Hills and boasted a powerful group of speakers, moderated by TVWeek Editor Alex Ben Block.

Does the ability to fast-forward through commercials mean the 30-second spot is dead? Not according to the panel. While new media is helping to drive the development of product placement, there is no need to abandon the more traditional options, the experts said.

“TiVo is not an excuse to pour millions of dollars into branded entertainment,” said Jak Severson, CEO of Madison Road Entertainment, a branded entertainment studio serving the television and advertising industries. Branded entertainment should become a choice because it works, he said, not because it’s the only choice.

Product placement was a hot topic among the panel members. Mr. Mischler listed some criteria for integrating products into shows: The integration must work for the advertiser, work in the show and work for the viewer. Mr. Severson agreed. “If the brand doesn’t make the show better, the brand doesn’t make the show,” he said.

According to the five panelists, the 30-second spot will live on, but Chris Moseley, executive VP and chief marketing officer of Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel, seemed to have the most hope. “The idea of telling a story in the advertising is really the way to go,” she said.

Ms. Moseley said she likes the idea of making traditional commercials more interesting by “whipping up the emotional content.” Emotional content is not necessarily sad or intense, she said, but can use humor, for example, to engage the viewers by connecting to them through emotions. “It’s a difference between hard sell and soft sell,” she said.

Michael Benson, senior VP of marketing, advertising and promotion for ABC Entertainment, said one of the emerging difficulties is the rising cost and increasing options that must be navigated using the same resources. “Now you have to leverage your dollars over many different areas,” he said.

Despite the state of television advertising being what it is — it was compared to the “Wild West” several times during the discussion — where every spot buy and product placement is somewhat of a gamble, the panelists did agree that it all comes back to creative and quality programming.

“You have to like the show first,” Mr. Miller said. “Everything else follows from that.”