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