The proliferation of digital video recorders (DVRs) is beginning to reshape television advertising. As more viewers choose to fast-forward through commercials, new challenges lie ahead for companies trying to sell their products through TV ads. A New York Times article today by Brian Stelter investigates this topic, and provides some good news and some bad news for advertisers. Not everyone skips commercials, but lots of people do. How will the industry adjust? Here are four probable ways.

Advertisers Hone in on New Target Audience

According to the Times article:

Speaking of the 18- to 49-year-old demographic, Ms. McDonough said, "One thing that continues to strike us is the dramatically different profiles when you look at the live audience versus the playback audience." The playback audience, she said, "is so much younger and so much more upscale. Even though they are skipping commercials, they are the consumers that most advertisers are very eager to get."

In other words, the younger, more tech savvy, and relatively affluent consumers are more likely to forward commercials. Once companies understand this observation, those that TV commercials appeal to will shift dramatically toward products that appeal to older viewers. In other words, we can expect to see lots more ads for denture cream and erectile dysfunction medication.

More Product Placement

Of course, advertisers will still try to sneak their way into the minds of those DVR users who are more likely to fast-forward through commercials. One tactic to do so will be more aggressive product placement. A few weeks ago, one example could be seen during an episode of the science fiction drama Fringe. One of the main characters, Peter, receives a call from another and takes it on his Sprint Evo. Although it was completely non-essential to the plot, he took the call via video phone, instead of taking it as a regular voice call. But Sprint obviously loved showcasing the device's video phone capability.

And this is exactly the sort of audience that Sprint would have trouble reaching in a TV commercial. Fringe watchers are likely the precise demographic likely to be using a DVR and eager to ignore the commercials. They're relatively young adult viewers who like sci-fi, so are more likely to be the type who appreciate the technology that DVR provides.

More Gimmicky Commercials

Another way to get at those viewers who want to speed past commercials is to, well, trick them. The Times article provides an example of this one:

ZOMBIES attacked during a commercial break on the AMC zombie drama "The Walking Dead" last month. The flesh eaters were just about to feast on a man and woman when rescue came in the form of the Toyota Corolla, the subject of the 30-second spot.

When the viewer sees zombies, they think the show is back. Psych! Toyota got you! Other gimmicks include when shows appear to have begun again, only to provide a 10 to 15 second clip to get you to press play, before commercials return. Clearly, trying to fool viewers into accidentally watching commercials isn't below advertisers, so expect to see more of these tactics.

Internet Ads Become More Valuable

For years, Internet advertising was seen as inferior. But as the Times article explains, one of the most lucrative groups of consumers -- young adults who are tech savvy and relatively affluent -- aren't watching as many TV commercials thanks to DVR. But what are they likely doing a lot of? They probably spend several hours per day online.

Web sites that can demonstrate traffic from that target demographic will be in a position to provide a very valuable service to companies who want their products in front of those specific eyeballs. They can better reach the audience than television. Even if a person doesn't click on a banner, at least they'll probably glance at it as they scroll down a page, which will likely provide more brand reinforcement than they got fast-forwarding through a commercial for the same product.


These are only a few of the ways that advertising will likely evolve. DVRs will only become more popular in coming years, which means advertisers will have to develop more sophisticated strategies to capture the attention of viewers who have no intention of watching commercials.

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