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Media Zone: DRTV Has the Answers for the DVR Dilemma

1 May, 2008 By: Response Contributor Response

Advertiser studies that measure how digital video recorders (DVRs) hurt their TV campaigns have delivered mixed results, but it's common sense that viewers will breeze past commercials if provided easy methods to do so. For three years, Information Resources Inc. has researched the most critical response to DVR-enabled ad skipping: the sales of advertised products.

Timothy R. Hawthorne

Timothy R. Hawthorne


While TiVo households purchased five-percent fewer newly introduced products than did non-DVR homes, five percent isn't nearly the catastrophe that marketers have dreaded. Then again, DVR penetration remains modest (23 percent according to Nielsen), but it's growing (up from 13 percent in 2006).

Advertisers should address their concerns proactively. The first temptation is to fight technology with technology — exemplified by BlackArrow's plan to display static ads when DVR users hit the pause button. But technological solutions designed to circumvent choice rarely endure. The winning strategies will be familiar ones: precision media buying and innovative creative.

Information Resources' J.P. Beauchamp says that multichannel ad buys eliminate purchasing differences between TiVo and non-DVR homes. "Diversify or die," he concludes. A spot's position in an ad pod also affects impact — the least-skipped spots are the first and the last.

Carat's Mitch Oscar suggests that the last is optimal because fast-forwarding viewers are extra attentive to not overshoot the points where their programs resume. Advertisers can also implement creative lessons gleaned from an NBC biometric study that proved viewers retain details from spots they fast-forward. Recall is best for creatives that display static scenes and that center the graphics, logo and action mid-screen.



But the best creative solution is surprisingly simple: employ DRTV tactics. TiVo's StopWatch data revealed that three of the four least fast-forwarded campaigns last April were direct response ads. That's music to direct response marketers' ears, but it's important to understand why:

1. DRTV emphasizes offers. It's human nature to want to know what things cost. Make this apparent and people will pause for a peek. Equally important, numbers convey messages visually. Ad-skipping viewers can't hear.

2. Relevant content suppresses program flight. If the first Food Network ad you see promotes cookware, you're still focusing on food — the content you elected to watch. Positioning advertising as content is a trendy recommendation, but decades of response data prove that it works.

3. While many characterize DVRs as a new threat, DRTV history suggests otherwise. A TiVo enhances consumer control, but the now ubiquitous TV remote was once revolutionary for much the same reason. In essence, channel surfing is cruising through content until something visually arresting grabs your attention, inspiring you to put down the remote and just watch. The similar DVR dynamic just occurs at a much faster pace. Consumers skip fewer direct response spots because DRTV formulas make each second count; success demands interrupting viewers' inclination to move quickly to whatever's next.

Marketers of America, relax. Don't fear the DVR — accept it as a manageable challenge. And if you need a little help with transitioning, your friendly neighborhood DRTV agencies stand ready, willing and able.

Timothy R. Hawthorne is chairman and executive creative director of Hawthorne Direct, a full-service DRTV, print, mail and digital ad agency founded in 1986. A 34-year television producer/writer/director, Hawthorne is a cum laude Harvard graduate.

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