MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Why sponsorship may be a solution to the ad skippers

I once read about a man who had a fetish for watching ads. He would pay women to tie him to an armchair and force him to endure hours of TV commercials. It was his idea of torture and he loved it. In a world where there are people with a penchant for making love to their cars, it isn’t so bizarre.

I once read about a man who had a fetish for watching ads. He would

pay women to tie him to an armchair and force him to endure hours of TV

commercials. It was his idea of torture and he loved it. In a world

where there are people with a penchant for making love to their cars, it

isn’t so bizarre.



But it could be illegal. A judge in a German court last week ruled that

it was unlawful to force someone to sit through TV advertising. Not

because some ad-obsessed soul had suffered a mishap indulging his

passion, but because of technology that makes it possible to screen out

ads from TV programmes. The commercial broadcaster, Sat 1, had asked a

Frankfurt court to ban the sale of TV equipment that switches to another

channel as soon as an ad break kicks in. The judge declined.



As if a built-in ad-zapper wasn’t enough, a new generation of video

recorders, already on the market in the US, allows TV viewers to

construct their own TV schedules and by-pass the ad breaks.



Using systems such as TiVo and Replay, viewers can skip through ads many

times faster than conventional videos. And anyone who’s ever wielded a

remote control to fast-forward through a videoed commercial break will

appreciate the implications of bringing this facility to regular TV

viewing.



Naturally, commercial broadcasters and advertisers are rather concerned

at the possibilities of such TV gadgetry, hence the court action in

Germany last week. One obvious answer to the dilemma is to get out of

the breaks and closer to the programmes themselves. Step forward

sponsorship, so often misused and abused in the UK, thanks to creative

agencies’ general inability to produce good sponsorship credits and the

poor media advice which has frequently mismatched product and

programme.



There are now a number of good sponsorships on our screens which

illustrate what can be achieved. Guinness is effectively dominating the

Rugby World Cup with its often brilliant sponsorship of ITV’s coverage;

the Cadbury’s deal with Coronation Street has shown sponsorship has

long-term mileage; and Nescafe’s association with Friends proves it is

possible to design credits that have a real empathy with the

programme.



OK, sponsorship is not as sexy as a full-blown 30-second campaign, it

doesn’t look so good in the creative portfolio and the sums involved are

not as large. But it’s difficult to understand why it’s taken so long to

secure sponsors for some of the nation’s best-loved shows; Emmerdale was

only snapped up last month.



Undoubtedly there’s a lingering lethargy about recommending sponsorship

solutions, particularly among creative agencies who would do well to

temper their ingrained belief that TV is for spot advertising.



In a zap-happy world, sponsorship is one form of commercial TV message

that it’s pretty difficult to avoid.



claire.beale@haynet.com



Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4.



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