03 February, 2009

The Superbowl, Dragons, and Bizarro DVR

DVRs have changed advertising, and they're doing it again, in reverse. This weekend I watched the Superbowl for the first time since 2001, the year the Ravens took home the trophy. I'm not much for football, but I enjoy a game every now and then (every seven years to be exact.)

But I have, in the past, been tempted to tune in sporadically to catch a few commercials. I never do though. Does anyone? It's always seemed to me that the money companies spend on Superbowl ads is almost completely wasted. The Superbowl has two things going for it that prevent commercial consumption. One, it's an event that true-believers don't want to miss a second of. And two, those same viewers are consuming large quantities of beer, necessitating that some portion of the program be missed while the dragon is watered. That leaves the commercial breaks as the only viable option. And all that ad money is flushed away in a refreshing one minute span. And let's be honest. By the second half many of those viewers are themselves completely wasted and don't remember the commercials regardless of whether they actually saw them.

But I realized watching the game this year that DVRs have completely changed things, and in exactly the opposite way they originally shook up our industry. DVRs are generally credited with giving people the ability to skip over commercials, themselves negating millions of ad dollars. However, in the case of the Superbowl, where the ads are just as much of a draw as the game itself, DVRs are suddenly a boon. You can rewind and watch commercials you missed. You can watch them over and over again. And we did in a couple of instances. Suddenly there is no part of the game, including the commercials, that you have to miss.

Pair DVRs with the internet and viral video, and those Superbowl ad buys seem pretty smart. The lesson to learn here is that buzz-worthy spots get viewed. DVRs impede ad viewership. But if you can create singularly interesting campaigns, or couch them amongst other spots that are singularly interesting, the DVR creates viewing options that never existed before. I regularly use my DVR to buzz through commercial breaks. But if my eye catches the unmistakable signature of an Apple "Mac vs. PC" commercial, I stop and rewind. None of the other spots win my eyes, but an Apple spot will every time. So DVRs actually create a greater opportunity than ever before to stand out from the din.

Is this all true? I don't know. I've been making it up as I go. But it seems pretty likely. Or at least mostly plausible. So yes. It's true.

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