Advertising in television commercials has been met with some fierce changes in recent years.  With the invention of the DVR system, it seems that more viewers are ‘fast-forwarding' the commercials in favor of watching their program in less time, with less interruptions.

Obviously, there are ways to use DVR systems to measure what commercials and specific parts of programs the audience is most watching (as was mentioned in my American Idol analysis), but this blog post offers an interesting notion that perhaps we are measuring the wrong metric.

Eleanor Baird proposed that we should find a way to measure the level of ‘engagement' that a viewer exhibits while watching the advertisements.  For example, I could easily leave my TV on and leave the room to fix a snack because it's "commercial time". 


How do we fix this engagement quandary?  Is there a way to magically make all commercials as interesting as the ones for which we so readily anticipate during the Super Bowl?

My first suggestion is one that advertisers frequently use during Sweeps Week in the fall.  A large company will sponsor the premiere episode to be commercial-free, with only a quick 5-second advert every so often.  I can still remember that Ford sponsored the two-hour-long 24 premiere episode, and that Kotex sponsored the Daria television movie.  Big brands can afford to do this; we already know about the companies Ford and Kotex, so they need not always advertise specific products.

A second suggestion is to shorten commercials.  I am not even specifically suggesting that the total commercial break be shortened, but the individual commercials contained within.  A television audience's attention span is frightfully short, so quicker and fewer commercials would be more engaging.

It surprises me that advertising costs don't include a metric for the genre of the show.  It would make sense that serial dramas with constant cliffhangers or competitive reality shows would allow for more engaging viewing experiences.  I know that my housemates won't leave their seats during Lost, and since they watch it when the new episode premieres, they see all the commercials.

In fact, the Internet and Web 2.0 tools have actually caused me to be MORE likely to watch a show at the time of its premiere.  Viewers do not want the next eliminee of their favorite reality TV show to be spoiled for them by seeing it all over the gossip websites the next day.  Some Internet users are practically vicious at posting spoilers; I've even had shows ruined for me by reading comments in YouTube videos.  Things like this make me more likely to watch the first showing of my favorite drama.  Perhaps this has something to do with the death of the situation comedy, which contains no reason to watch it immediately.  But now I am just into wild speculation…

While no one has created metrics for measuring this engagement, I predict that soon it will be the main way that we price television advertisements.

[this blog post was presented commercial-free by ImpactWatch]