It’s all just marketing

Since I grew up in the 1950s and 60s, the Cold War is a very real part of my history. You had to be there to understand what it was like to have air raid drills every week in elementary school. The fear was the atomic bomb coming via the Soviet Union’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Our own ICBMs were named “The Minuteman” missile. Nice. The name conjures imagery from our past.

Then came Vietnam and our taste for war changed. The cold war abated, but we still needed our missiles in order to be a superpower. In 1986, we launched what was supposed to be a replacement project for the Minuteman. What did we call it? The Peacekeeper. Here was a missile that could deliver ten nuclear warheads, and we called it the Peacekeeper.

Minuteman. Peacekeeper. Minuteman. Peacekeeper.

Isn’t it interesting how a little marketing savvy can change the perception?

Fast forward to 2005 and the announcement yesterday by network researchers that DVR technology is good, not bad, for network advertisers. They’re claiming that DVRs represent a net gain for network TV, not a reduced value in audience exposure. Huh?

NBC’s crack researcher Alan Wurtzel — according to Media Daily News — noted “that popular network TV shows tend to be the most recorded and played-back content among DVR users, creating an opportunity for viewers to see more of the shows they would otherwise miss.” As a recorder of network shows, I can attest that this is true. It allows me to watch competing shows, and I am definitely viewing shows I would otherwise miss.

But — and this is the biggie — I do not watch the commercials.

Minuteman. Peacekeeper.

Madison Avenue’s reaction was skeptical.

“It really is very difficult to accept the broadcasters’ position,” said Jim Kite, executive vice president-research, insight & accountability at MediaVest. “Ask anyone who has a DVR and watches a program in playback mode and they fast-forward the commercials. We think in the region of 70–90 percent of the time. The stats they presented defy logic. We are very confident that the vast majority of top up DVR ratings will be programming, not commercial, driven.”
I guess if you say white is black long enough, some people will begin to believe you. Lost Remote’s Cory Bergman isn’t buying it either.
While I agree with that statistic, I’m skeptical of their claim that TV viewers still notice commercials as they fast-forward over them. Alan Wurtzel, NBC’s chief researcher, went as far as saying it was an “urban myth” that DVRs make commercials worthless. Ok folks, if you’re fast-forwarding through a commercial, it’s worthless. Period. Seeing a logo for a tenth of a second doesn’t count. (If you stop to watch, that’s a different matter. But how often does that happen?)
This is a predictable and sad development in the evolution of television, mostly because it gives false hope to desperate people and creates a diversion from the development of strategies and tactics that are more accepting of reality. It’s all just marketing, an attempt to create consent by altering perspectives.

Minuteman. Peacekeeper.

You decide.


  1. Same here. My wife and I NEVER watch commercials on what we TiVo. Other than sports that I watch, we rarely watch TV live.

    I’m not sure where the Nets got their data, but if they’re interested in some magic beans… 🙂

  2. “Other than sports that I watch, we rarely watch TV live.”

    I think this is the key for advertisers. Live programming such as NFL football and March Madness will increasingly gain value over primetime programming because people will always watch sports live.

  3. Hence the appeal of reality TV, especially American Idol, in which “liveness” matters. Of course, even the American Idol show is itself a 1‑hour advertisement for the music industry, mallrats fashions, and text message services.

    I’d argue that the brief logo flash can matter. Keep in mind that advertisements don’t have to persuade logically to work their magic, only to assert their familiarity. In a world of overwhelming choices, a familiar object can be a comfort. So I don’t think the DVR folks are entirely wrong.

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