Fueled by a growing sense of desperation, networks are inserting games, quizzes and mini-dramas into commercial breaks. They're incorporating more product pitches into programming. Two experimental programs without traditional commercial breaks will premiere this fall. NBC has even called on Jerry Seinfeld for help.
This is all being done to stop viewers with DVRs from fast-forwarding through advertisements, or to circumvent those that do.
Adding to the urgency, this week Nielsen Media Research begins offering ratings for commercial breaks, instead of just the shows around them.
"We all need to become more creative in how we incorporate sponsors into a program," said Ed Swindler, executive vice president for NBC Universal ad sales. "No one on the creative side or the business side wants to make commercials intrusive, but we do need to commercialize efficiently so viewers can afford to get free television."
It goes on to say:
The CW is readying "cwickies," a series of five-second ads that, by an evening's end, promotes a longer ad. With a sponsor's assist, TNT will air some series premieres commercial-free to entice viewers. Both the CW and Telemundo will premiere shows in the fall — an entertainment newsmagazine and talent contest — with commercials incorporated into the shows.
One television expert suggests networks need to go back to the future, to when sponsor messages were routinely weaved into entertainment. Marketers also need to make their commercials more entertaining and guard against overexposure, he said.
"A commercial has to be like a DVD extra," he said. "It has to be an added value, not an inconvenience."
Yikes. Tall order. And to go with the above food for thought, this appetizer from Online Video Insider that asks if ad agencies are still relevant.
What used to be created by an ad agency's writers and art directors -- engagement in the commercial message -- is now, according to the networks, the networks' responsibility. At least that's what they were claiming at this year's upfront -- each one selling advertisers on how their programs are better at engaging viewers in the commercials.
Listen to the networks and you would think that the commercial itself -- how it's written, art directed, produced, its emotional content -- is of little consequence to whether people watch or not.
To agency creative types, this can only be good news. After all, they now have a job where they get paid very well and are accountable for very little.
Ad agency types...don't get me started. But like it or not, you know the people producing and the creatives creating the next crop of network television series are having long drawn out discussions about how to seamlessly? implement these new ingredients into the body of their drama's and comedy's.
Let's just hope it's not all at the expense of the shows themselves...