Monday, April 19, 2010

Now We’re Interrupting The Interruptions

The news out of CNN today is that they will start interrupting the commercials that interrupt their programs with programming that runs alongside the commercial.

That’s right. Now when the commercial break comes on, the program will continue to run along with the commercial in a small window along the bottom of the screen.

I guess that the networks feel that it’s less of an interruption if they don’t really leave the program during the commercial break.

The result is that viewers who don’t want their program interrupted can now watch what happens behind the scenes of their program during the commercial breaks versus watching the commercial that the marketer is paying for.

And marketers are okay with this?

It makes you wonder what networks won’t do in the name of audience. Marketers now pay for the number of people watching commercials rather than for the number watching TV shows. So, by running the program alongside the commercial, the hope is that fewer people will switch to another channel during the breaks.

The result, more audience during the commercial. And, therefore, in the networks’ eyes, justification for their advertising rates.

ESPN, which has done something similar, has research backing up such tactics. According to ESPN’s senior VP of research and analytics, they have found that viewers keep their eyes on the advertising 81% of the time.

Interesting fact. No doubt ESPN is only charging 81% of the going rate for advertising done in this style.

There is only one small problem in all of this. Viewers can’t give 100% focus to two things at once. We are either going to watch what’s happening behind the scenes during the commercial break, or, we’re going to watch the commercial.

Impressions, or exposure to the commercial is not what matters. Engaging with the commercial, in other words, attention paid to the commercial is what advertisers are paying for.

Good creative can and will elicit attention to a commercial. If, that is, the networks don’t go and interrupt what good creative agencies are paid to do.

Solving the problems of interruptions with only more interruptions is a little like saying the beatings will stop when the moral improves.

It could work. But don't bet on it.

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