The arrival of digital TV changes the landscape for commercial makers and advertisers. There will be repercussions in terms of the technology and costs involved, as well as marketing decisions about the placement and targeting of ads.
Digital TV means more channels, CD sound quality, a choice of screening resolutions, and interactivity. It also means broadcasters will choose whether to transmit at high definition TV (HDTV), standard definition, widescreen, or send through digital services linked to the Internet. The classic commercial break has remained unchanged for nearly 40 years, so it is a very exciting time in the industry.
Advertisers, however, are going to have to work much harder to capture the viewer’s attention. With 200-plus channels on offer, channel-hopping takes on a whole new meaning, and ads will potentially end up competing simultaneously with programmes and interactive options in split-screen formats.
Digital TV will offer advertisers almost unlimited opportunities to show commercials, with the chance to run much longer ads at very good rates, or to enable the viewer to scroll back in time and watch favourite commercials.
Paying for longer ads to be produced for the new digital TV channels will only pay off if you can target your core audience precisely. It makes sense to make ads at digital resolution, which gives the best quality pictures, and show them in any good slot that presents itself on digital TV. Then you are at liberty to scale back the ad to lower resolution for terrestrial TV and bigger audiences.
Producing ads at digital resolution offers the opportunity to keep down both the costs of exploiting and experimenting with all these new options, as well as creating the kind of new ads which will stand out and involve the viewer in this new environment.
Fashion is changing and instead of video trying to imitate film, directors are finding themselves making film imitate high definition and the bright colours associated with digital video output. I can produce a quick and rough piece of work with a domestic digital video camera (with my producer, used to seeing me behind a wall of technicians and some eye-wateringly expensive equipment, looking on nervously) shot at a four-figure cost, which looks like a 40,000 to 60,000 commercial.
Forward-thinking post-production houses have invested in a new kind of telecine, which is the machine that transfers film onto high quality digital tape. This also allows ads to be created at digital resolution in post-production.
During post-production, the cost and time savings are apparent all the way down the line, as special effects editing suites are not so necessary for correcting and enhancing inferior quality footage. Digital technology presents a new toolbox for advertisers, and I look forward to seeing a new breed of creative, distinctive and cheaper commercials, which will give advertisers the impact they need in a digital future.