The bell isn’t tolling for TV ads: it’s ringing in new opportunities

Advertisers are worried about viewers’ growing control over the ads they watch. On the contrary, PVRs can be a boon for marketers. By Mark Wood

Television is going through big and dramatic changes. There are more formats, stations, technologies and target audience possibilities than ever. But change can breed uncertainty, so a key role for Thinkbox, the new TV marketing body, will be communicating to advertisers what the new developments mean and highlighting innovative ways of getting the best out of TV.

Technological developments in particular are often perceived as a significant threat to advertising on TV. Historically, the introduction of first the remote control and then the VCR were expected to have a negative effect on TV ad viewing – until at least a sceptic pointed out that the kettle could be cited as an even greater threat! Fast-forward 20 years and the personal video recorder (PVR) is heralded as the death-knell of TV advertising.

While much has been made of their potential threat to advertising, it is certain that PVRs are here to stay as more viewers embrace the ability to take control over the TV schedules. Starcom predicts that by 2010 there will be 7 million PVR-enabled set-top boxes. As there is no guarantee that viewers will watch the ads in time-shifted programmes, this empowerment of the consumer presents advertisers with challenge and opportunity in equal measure.

Recent research in Sky Plus homes suggests that PVRs will certainly mean a change to advertising, but not an end to it. Sky Plus owners watch more TV than the average viewer, and commercial TV wins an even greater share. The majority of these PVR viewers maintain they are more engaged in the programmes they do choose to watch and therefore in the advertising they view. Indeed, advertisement recall in Sky Plus homes is the same as that in terrestrial TV homes.

PVRs also present advertisers with a host of new opportunities to engage with consumers. In the not-too-distant future, PVRs could facilitate methods of incentivising viewers to watch advertising, through free downloads, loyalty points or competitions. Alternatively, PVRs could accommodate more advanced interactive advertising. So advertisers could link TV ads to text messages, offer viewers the chance to download longer versions, or target viewers by postcode or viewing preference.

We at Thinkbox are excited about the possibilities that technology is now promising for TV, but we recognise the need to explain how marketers can best embrace these opportunities, and support them in doing so. We want to involve the advertising community in a dialogue to develop jointly new ways of engaging viewers. To this end, we are committed to a programme of activity designed specifically to inform, involve and inspire marketers about TV.

TV technology must and will keep developing and we expect the advertising opportunities provided by the nation’s most-loved medium to become ever more powerful because of it.

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