Why advertisers should welcome time-shifted TV

By Sav Evangelou and Lindsey Clay, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 23 June 2011 12:01AM

Despite giving viewers the chance to skip ads, the rise of DTRs has merely highlighted their addiction to live TV, Sav Evangelou and Lindsey Clay say.


- The digital television recorder was supposed to be bad news for linear TV, yet viewing is at a record high. How come?

Broadcasters' response to the time-shifting impact of DTRs and the dilution of audiences to online has been to invest more in event and appointment-to-view TV. No accident that reality TV's surge, with blockbusters such as Big Brother, The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent, has coincided with the rise of the DTR. Broadcasters need programmes that are best experienced live, and can attract big-ticket sponsorship and advertising.

- If people don't get DTRs to fast-forward ads, why do they get them?

We have conditioned audiences and have been conditioned ourselves to consume media whenever we snap our fingers. We're in control, not the schedulers, so people buy DTRs to assert their media consumption terms. Mind you, in 2009, TiVo reported that 83 per cent of Mad Men viewers fast-forwarded ads. So the drama about advertising was near the top of the table for skipping the content it celebrates. Was that an adland viewership eating itself? If so, was that a sign that we're setting a trend that mainstream audiences will follow?

- What does the future hold for time-shifted TV viewing?

More people setting their DTRs from their mobiles because they'd rather swig another pint, or more commuters watching Downton Abbey on the Number 38 bus - because they can. The future will refer less to TV, but more to time, device and location-shifting. The convergence march will continue as we see terabyte-laden set-top boxes acting as media hubs. In addition to the web, on-demand movies and broadcast material, these will also access personal content and music libraries. I'd love to see resurgent commercial red buttons. We had great success years ago with bespoke rich content that took viewers from one to many broadcast environments into deeper one-to-one exchanges that shifted product.

- Are DTRs redundant with the dawn of on-demand TV?

Arguably. On-demand is only a viable winner if all you ever want to watch is available. Until such a time, you still need the confidence to know that you can watch the match because you recorded it.

- Is there any good news for advertisers in DTRs or is it just about damage limitation?

Lots of good news once we recognise that there's life for advertisers beyond 30-second spots. We need to acknowledge that the big idea isn't necessarily the TV ad script. That's all a bit one-way and our clients' brands now fight for the attention of audiences who exercise the right to fast-forward. Of course, TV is key but, more than ever before, brands have to earn the right to play a role in people's lives. Never mind the long tail we weave into campaigns; what about the long nose that sniffs out and targets our most valuable audiences? What about using media channels in a way that doesn't spit out lazy matching luggage but creates awareness in smaller but precious influential audiences who themselves mobilise broader groups? What about less talk and more commissioning of advertiser-funded programming and brand content across recorded and live events? We discovered recently that if content is innovative, people don't question the advertiser's overt involvement. The introduction of DTRs has forced campaign innovation and creativity.


- The digital television recorder was supposed to be bad news for linear TV, yet viewing is at a record high. How come?

The gloomy soothsayers underestimated the importance of the schedule and live TV to viewers and the motives for having a DTR. Ninety-three per cent of TV is viewed live (87 per cent in those households that have a DTR) because people prefer it that way. We want to talk about TV in real time (hence the popularity of two-screening with social media during live TV). But if we can't join in with the moment, we have technologies like the DTR to help.

- If people don't get DTRs to fast-forward ads, why do they get them?

People get DTRs because they love TV, want more control over it and want to avoid missing out. They don't get them to militantly fast-forward ads, although all of us with a DTR fast-forward sometimes. But it is important to remember that because DTRs encourage owners to watch more TV at normal speed (about 17 per cent more), any ads lost are more than compensated for. Despite nearly half the country having a DTR, we're watching more ads at normal speed than ever: 2.5 billion a day, 35 per cent more than in 1999.

- What does the future hold for time-shifted TV viewing?

Fingers tentatively crossed, less misplaced panic from the media industry about ad-skipping. Nearly half of UK households now have a DTR, and that will continue to grow, and we would expect time-shifting to continue living in harmony with live viewing. The DTR box is also the means by which platforms can offer on-demand (such as Sky Anytime), HD, 3D and addressability in the years to come.

- Are DTRs redundant with the dawn of on-demand TV?

No, they do different things. Our Tellyporting research revealed that DTRs are valued because they offer almost instant catch-up and the recording can be kept forever. On-demand comes into its own for recommendation where word-of-mouth can create a whole new audience after the first broadcast. Also, DTRs offer a seamless, high-quality TV experience; not all on-demand does.

- Is there any good news for advertisers in DTRs or is it just about damage limitation?

There's plenty of good news, over and above the extra TV viewing they encourage. The "spectre" of fast-forwarding has encouraged a greater emphasis on high creativity; if your ad is liked, people can rewind and watch it again, which we know they do. Fast-forwarded ads also have a value given the fixed attention needed when fast-forwarding - about 65 per cent of the recall you would expect from normal speed, as long as the ad has already been seen - but fast-forwarded ads are not counted by Barb and so are effectively free to advertisers. Overall, the empowerment DTRs offer means that we are enjoying TV more than we've ever done, because we only watch what we value, and this is good news for everyone, including advertisers.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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