Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lazy Sunday # 132: The Infinite House

Much as I don't want to damage the Sponsor/Creative co-dependent relationship, I'm one of those people who DVR's a show and skips past all the commercials.

If I'm watching live sports, I use those ad breaks to go the bathroom, make some popcorn or get another beer -- whether or not its the same brand that's bringing me the game, I haven't a clue.

The advent of the VHS tape was, for me, right up there with Salk Vaccine and putting a man on the moon. It meant I never again had to endure a long commercial break just when we were getting to the good part.

I know that TV commercials are economically important to my industry, often extremely creative and can tell me a lot of things I should know. If they pop up after the final credits or before the story kicks in, I'll watch 'em.  But the minute they intrude on what I really want to spend my leisure time doing, I tune out.

I have a theory that if the experience of watching a TV series on its initial broadcast was identical to a commercial free DVR viewing, the number of people getting episodes from bit torrent streams would plummet.

This is actually a theory I've had since I was 18 years old. During my 18th summer, I visited England for the first time, discovering there were no commercials on television but they had them at the movies.

What I noticed most was that if you were watching a TV series over there, you engaged a little more because nothing was distracting you from the experience. "Kicking you out of the story" as I came to call it.

You simply weren't being reminded every 8-10 minutes that you were sitting at home staring at a box. Nor were you making mental notes to put "this" on your grocery list or stop doing "that" in polite company.

And while the novelty of watching commercials before a movie quickly wore off, what didn't was how hard the advertisers worked to compete with what they were all aware would follow. Their message had to stick with you past the James Bond car chases or interludes with Catherine Deneuve. So they pulled out all the stops and really went for it.

They also weren't locked into a standard 15 or 30 or 60 second slot. Some of them ran 3 or 4 minutes. Some flashed past in 6-8 seconds. There wasn't a clearly defined and unalterable period of time they had to fill.

I seem to recall the same dynamics being at play when commercials first arrived in movie theatres here. Now they're the same ones you've already seen a dozen times on TV, five dozen if you've been watching a CFL football game on TSN.

Do Canadian sports networks have a rule that you have to run the same three commercials in every break?

As a result, commercials in movie theatres have become as intrusive and annoying as they always were on television. Maybe the repetition does register with consumers on some level, but I can't be convinced its in a good way.

Wouldn't it be interesting to see if an advertiser could hold your attention and really sell his product in a 10 or 12 minute slot off the top of a show? Do you think they could keep you interested enough that you wouldn't spin the dial to see who was on Larry King or what Snooki was wearing?

Wait. Somebody has already done it.

What follows is a nine minute commercial from Germany. Unless you can read German, I defy you to tell me what its selling. I had to watch it twice before I made the connection. But I know that the next time I'm in Dusseldorf and need stuff like this, they're the guys I'm going to see first.

And isn't that the kind of viewer reaction every descendent of Don Draper wants for their clients?

Stop interrupting my story to tell me yours. You're putting up the money, you go first. Or last. Whatever suits you. And take as long as or be as brief as you want. I'm convinced that if we weren't stepping all over each other we'd both have happier and more receptive customers.

Think about it. And following this important message -- Enjoy your Sunday.


Mark said...

They also like to work opposite to the pacing of the drama. They start off with short commercials and by the time you get to the climax of the show they have moved to extensive commercials, killing the dynamic pace of the show.

Anonymous said...

First off, I loved the commercial. I would happily watch something like that before every movie or program. If I knew they would all be that good, I would probably sit around in a theater after a program to see it as well. If it were up against another program I wanted to see on a different channel, I would probably switch over, though.

For some reason, this whole discussion made me think of the old Jello-sponsored Jack Benny radio program. I remember the first time I heard one of those as a kid, and I couldn't quite wrap my brain around how suddenly in the middle of the broadcast the the cast was cracking wise about Jello! It was hilarious, though, and a great way to work the sponsor into the program. I doubt anyone ever felt those moments were interruptions -- but that could probably only be done in a comedy broadcast.

The Motorcycle Boy said...

I was thinking that to 'cure' the whole peer-to-peer downloading thing, studios could offer 'free' downloads with commercials at the front and back end.

I'd go for that if it were like super-fast download speeds.

A few minutes of commercials rather than wait 7 hours for a download?


The Motorcycle Boy said...

And you know when you download 30-day free software, you use it (I recommend Hit Man Pro for ridding malaware, worms, viruses and cookies) and you have to 'watch' an ad by another company for like 7 seconds b4 you can close the application...

The Studios can build their own Movie Viewer that plays only their movies, enabling this function to embed commercials at the front and back of the film.

None in the middle tho, you fakking bastards!