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The New Face of Advertising:
Creative Approaches for a DVR World

By Peter Koeppel

Today, approximately three million people use digital video recorders (DVRs), such as TiVo. That may not seem like cause for concern, but in the next five years, thirty million people, or thirty percent of American homes, will likely use them. Why are these devices gaining so rapidly? Because they empower consumers with control over how they view television. That’s right; television viewers love these gadgets. They can watch all their favorite shows whenever they want, plus they can skip through all the commercials.

Unfortunately for advertisers, most statistics show that fifty percent of people name the ability to skip commercials as their favorite DVR feature. And even though viewers watch twenty to thirty percent more television once they get a DVR, they tend to skip seventy percent of the ads.

However, CBS recently published a study on DVR use that explained how the process of skipping commercials may actually enhance a viewer’s ability to recall ads. They found that viewers who fast forwarded through the commercials were able to recall twenty-three percent of the commercials they skipped over, which is an outstanding figure. Perhaps the recall rate is so high because the people fast forwarding through the ads concentrate more on the screen in anticipation of their program coming back on.

So what does all this mean for television advertisers? For many, it means panic, although some aren’t so concerned. Essentially all advertisers have two options: 1) use alternative media, and 2) offer more compelling visual images in their ads. In other words, you must get more creative with your advertising methods if you want your prospects to see them.

The following creative approaches to advertising in the DVR world have proven successful for many corporate advertisers, and they may help you come up with your own innovative ideas.

1. Use Video Billboards

As viewers fast forward your television ads, they’ll basically be seeing your commercial for four seconds or less. Therefore, something has to make it memorable. Try using a static image throughout the duration of your ad or strategic logo placement to make your product or service more noticeable.

2. Take Advantage of New Opportunities

TiVo, who has taken great strides to overcome advertisers’ challenges, has created a feature called Showcase. This allows advertisers to store a long-form ad for on-demand viewing. In the coming year, TiVo plans to introduce an ad pop-up program. Then, when viewers fast forward a commercial through a TiVo system, a static ad image will appear on the screen. These images may offer ordering information, giveaways, or links to other ads. They also plan to unveil a video-to-video feature, which will bring web-like interactive advertisements to television.

3. Product Placement

Merging ads with television content will likely gain popularity in the future, and you can already see this method used in reality shows. For example, Coca-Cola glasses are prominently displayed in front of every judge of American Idol, and Warner Brothers’ Domestic Television Distribution has recently started selling virtual product placements. With this technology, everyday products from advertisers can be digitally inserted into syndicated television sitcoms.        

4. Make Mini-Movies

You can take advantage of captive movie-going audiences by running commercials during theater previews. While these ads are longer, more dramatic, and higher production than their television counterparts, the audience has no choice but to sit and watch.

5. Boost Your Web-Based Advertising Efforts

Standard online advertisements, such as banners, are usually so boring and irritating that internet users completely ignore them. Therefore, you should focus more attention on making them exciting and captivating to people surfing the net. Techniques range from multiple images, streaming videos, and interactive elements. Web tie-ins are also useful for products that need to be demonstrated.

6. Create Advertising Video Games or “Advergames”

Video games have boomed in huge markets, from kids of all ages, to men and even women, and advertising through them is a great way to expand your online efforts. For example, Lipton’s website features an employee searching through office cubicles to find Cup-a-Soups. This interactive approach is not only creative, but it also involves difficult-to-reach younger markets.

7. Sponsorships

Corporate sponsorships can provide a number of unique opportunities for advertisers. For example, The Apprentice regularly uses sponsored products in the contestant activities, such as developing an ad campaign for a toothpaste brand and prizes from car manufacturers. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, The Home Depot has built their brand into a slew of reality shows by linking with Mark Burnett Productions, a producer for a number of reality programs. Their loosely structured, multi-program deal allows Home Depot products and logos to appear in several shows, including The Apprentice, The Contender, and Martha Stewart’s new show.

8. Enhanced Advertising

According to a report from Avtrex on DVRs and the future of advertising, DVRs offer advertisers some tracking and searching features that can be extremely beneficial. For example, Cadillac recently ran a campaign on TiVo using “telescoping advertising.” In this campaign, Cadillac commercials seen on regular television broadcasts were “tagged” with a link to request more information visible only to TiVo viewers.

The Future of Advertising

All advertisers will have to face the fact that the advertising industry is changing. The convergence of television viewing and web browsing, blurred lines between advertising and programming, and increased consumer control over access to programming and commercials are trends on the horizon. Because of new technology, the old way of producing television commercials for thirty-second spots is not as effective as it used to be at reaching consumers. Therefore, no matter whom your audience is, you must make your ads more creative, image focused, and compelling, especially as DVR popularity continues to grow.

While DVRs are still relatively new to the market, their use is rapidly increasing. And as consumer television viewing habits change, your advertising methods will have to keep up. Use these eight creative approaches to adapt your advertising methods and inspire your own innovations to remain competitive in the DVR world of advertising.

Read other articles and learn more about Peter Koeppel.

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