Death to Commercials 2: Electric Booglaoo

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Joshua
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Postby Joshua » Thu May 23, 2002 1:49 pm

The Times has an interesting but rather disconcerting article about the future of television advertising in the face of digital video recorders like TiVo and ReplayTV. If for some reason unknown to man or beast you haven’t already or don’t want to register for the Times, here’s a (very small) snippet:

One in five people who own a DVR like TiVo or ReplayTV say they never watch any commercials, according to a recent survey from Memphis-based NextResearch.

Numbers like that have provoked gloomy pronouncements from industry executives. Some even come close to accusing habitual ad skippers of theft.

"The free television that we've all enjoyed for so many years is based on us watching these commercials," said Jamie C. Kellner, chief executive of Turner Broadcasting. "There's no Santa Claus. If you don't watch the commercials, someone's going to have to pay for television and it's going to be you."

...

Others are trying to turn the technology to their advantage. Coca-Cola has paid for advertising that appears on the screen of a ReplayTV user when a viewer pauses a program for more than a few minutes. Last week, Best Buy announced that it would embed electronic tags visible only to TiVo users in 30-second commercials featuring the singer Sheryl Crow it is running on MTV. Viewers can click on an icon to see 12 additional minutes of the Best Buy "advertainment," while TiVo records the continuing MTV programming so they can watch it later.


So first off, now, along with the “criminals” that use MP3s, TiVo users are “habitual ad skippers” who commit theft? And if people are doing that, how do they think that offering them a twelve minute commercial for BestBuy within the context of another commercial is going to help? (BTW, we clearly see what side Sheryl Crow falls on in the ROCK vs. SELL debate.)

This next bit is of particular interest to me:

Much of the television industry's response to the new technology so far has focused on a lawsuit that seeks to ban the sale of the newest version of ReplayTV, which allows its customers to set it up to skip commercials on playback automatically, without even requiring them to fast-forward. The machine also allows its owners to send shows to each other over the Internet.


I happen to own a VCR that does exactly what that describes – it automatically blows past commercials without any user input, allowing me to view That 70’s Show in about 22 minutes and without ever putting down the pipe. I bought this VCR about five years ago, and my friends, eager to get their own once they saw its magical properties (the VCR, not the pipe) went to BestBuy to learn that the model had been discontinued because of the industry’s objection to the commercial-skipping feature. So am I to then infer that I’m a TV-stealing thief because I use hardware banned by the advertising industry?

I don’t know what to make of all this, but in some bizarre way, I think this might be good. The giant media zaibatsus will have to come up with some kind of digital rights management system before long, lest sales taper off at Taco Bell. Heaven forbid.

Sugarcubes Forever
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Postby Sugarcubes Forever » Thu May 23, 2002 2:04 pm

I hope their tech fix for this works as well as the copy free CDs which can be ripped by simply scribbling on their outer edges with a Sharpie!

The best TV is still the stuff that comes through an illegal cable hook-up or homemade satellite TV box!!

Maybe VCRs shouldn't have that button marked "FF".

vitas
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Postby vitas » Thu May 23, 2002 2:17 pm

actually, i see us moving in very dangerous territory shortly. sure, i can bemoan the ad industry for insisting that people are thieves for choosing not to be targeted with useless information regarding such-and-such company's "special offer" or "new product" or "once in a lifetime deal". though, as one avenue for communication closes, inevitably another one opens.

i can see how advertising will shift to be part of the content of the show. either a featured product that the cast utilizes and is worked into the dialogue (that can be conveniently swapped out for similar product, but different brands in the future - the whole e.t. m&m's/reece's pieces scenario, where m&m mars company negotiated the rights with spielberg and aol time warner to change reece's pieces to m&m's when the film is broadcast on any turner station (tbs, tnt, etc.). or, worst than coyly hiding product within the context of the show, they could have banners along the edges of the screen or "pop ups" that tie into the dialogue.

what would be interesting to see would be a truly interactive television system where someone could point and click on a product on the screen to receive information regarding the product's features or price. this way we could have uninterrupted story lines, a consumer driven information retrieval, and a new and interesting avenue to sell a product.

we must remember that before the advent of television we had a consumer base that demanded quality product. they were the driving force behind what was in the stores. supply dictated demand. since mass media was introduced, we've had a marketplace that's been dictated by supplier, strongly due to the fact that advertising has been delivering a message that focuses on our need to have a product, but not what the product can do for us. an evil and distorted message to purely move product at any cost. and what exactly is the cost? the lessening of quality in the product, the propagation of a throw away culture, a low self opinion of people who can not attain the product, and a widening perception of a class divide.

and the statement that if we don't watch advertising that television will no longer be free. like we don't already pay for television through the inflated prices of the product that's hocked on it. no, the nice people in the media and the advertising industry decided to give mr. joe blow a break because every now and again he gives them thirty seconds of his attention. give me a break.

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Postby sab » Thu May 23, 2002 2:55 pm

If people really knew just what a multi-billion dollar industry product placement in movies and TV already *is* (Present tense: Ever wonder why characters in movies drive certain cars, drink certain beverages, etc.? It ain't 'cause the screenwriter wrote it that way.), well, they probably wouldn't care. Or they'd be amazed for about 15 seconds and then their attention would turn back to what they were previously thinking about, like Celebrity Boxing 2.

Anyway, my point is that we're pretty much already there, Vit. The reason why my magazine (and everyone else's for that matter) is suffering right now is that "traditional" ad models, i.e. print/TV/radio advertising, are increasingly being dumped in favor of what I'd call "lifestyle-infiltration". All this new promotion, whether it's sponsoring some X-Treme snowboarding contest held in July in major citys (I think it was Molson that did this stunt last year) or creating a TV show that's basically a 30-minute commercial (Ford's new "No Boundaries" reality series ) aims at blurring the line between advertising and, well, life. The message is all the same--consuming shit is the only thing in life worth doing at any cost, life should be lived in the name of shopping, to live is to buy consumer crap, whatever.

It's sickening really. But there's a simple solution. Fuck the mainstream media. Turn off the goddamn television. Use the Internet to communicate with real people who aren't just ad industry created clones. And embrace technology that allows us to fuck corporate AmeriKKKa--like the Sharpie!

Okay, rant over.

Joshua
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Postby Joshua » Thu May 23, 2002 4:10 pm

True, Sab - we are already there, but just imagine how far we have yet to go...That's what scares me about this - that the system is starting to break down and we have no idea what The Industry is going to try to do to counter the anti-advertising trend. We already know that product placement will take on a whole new significance, but ultimately the "problem" as they see it is with technology and we all know how well The Industry handles technological changes. They'll start grabbing at any half-baked technological solution to shoehorn their ads in front of our faces and before we know it, we've got programs that won't play on certain TVs - or worse.

Remember how in Demolition Man all the popular music consisted of commercial jingles? Here we go...

vitas
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Postby vitas » Thu May 23, 2002 4:12 pm

jeff, i know that product placement already exists in movies and television (take into account that i've referenced the movie e.t. m&m mars originally turned down the chance to have m&m's placed into the movie for fear of how their product would be perceived if it were attached to an alien. hershey's took the chance to create and launch a new product and use that film as the vehicle to do so.).

what i was touching upon would be, that in place of how product has been traditionally placed for reference, it would completely become a part of the script, in a way bringing the same message that is communicated in a thirty second spot into the dialogue that's conveyed within the show. the dialogue would actually be centered around product features and attributes.

believe me, i know how traditional advertising avenues have been suffering over the past decade... i've spent nearly my entire professional career kicking around ad agencies. i'm amassed at the effort put into selling crap. and i've never held back from pointing this fact out to a lot of the "creatives" i work with.

traditional media is dying and new channels of communication are opening up. though, the sad truth of it all is that we live in a consumer driven culture. now, it's up to us to re-examine how we consume. we can go back to the model of demand driving supply, which would drive a marketplace to create better product, or rely on the message of lifestyle to drive our desire to consume, which would only drive us to drink overpriced coffee, drive cars that are designed with planned obsolescence in mind, and buy disposable swedish furniture.

my suggestion is trying to create a bridge between mainstream media and the internet. by utilizing a high bandwidth connection and creating some sort of "search code" embedded in the show, we as consumer can select the item we want further information on. that way we all win...we're not hit over the head with an overt message about how this product will get us laid, the ad agencies get to collect information on consumer demand through tracking our movements through this medium, and the company that sells the product gets a venue to showcase their product. part of it is lifestyle driven, but in the end you hope that by having an avenue of this sort that the consumer/viewer gains more control and enjoys the benefit of uninterrupted viewing.

sab
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Postby sab » Thu May 23, 2002 4:16 pm

One thing that further strikes me as funny , having read the article in its entirety now, is that the guy from Turner is talking about "free" TV. I know damn well that I've never watched any of the myraid Turner-owned channels for free. Hard to get WTBS off the bunny ears in Detroit...

vitas
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Postby vitas » Thu May 23, 2002 4:31 pm

just a quick note jeff... the guy from turner probably could get away with that statement if it were put to the test because wtbs is a traditional station in atlanta, just like wgn in chicago. you don't need cable for the local signal. they're just carried on cable systems as "super stations".

of course, we could go into the whole sickening world of cross branding time warner and turner owned titles through their family of stations. it's really a lesson in how over the top and incestuous the idea of aol/time warner as a media entity is. how come they aren't considered a monopoly.

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Postby Phineas » Fri May 24, 2002 11:26 am

What does AOL/TW monopolize? I know they have their fingers dipped in many wells, but I haven't seen one industry they dominate in the fashion of Microsoft or Intel (the last couple of years excepted.)


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