By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
When it comes to TV audience, size matters. And nowhere does it matter more than in commercials.
New stats are on their way from Nielsen Media Research that will reveal how many people are tuned in during TV ads. This has the industry scrambling to find new ways to keep eyeballs glued to the set for the latest car, clothes, and Viagra commercials.
Approximately one-fifth of American households have digital video recorders (DVRs), which makes it oh-so-easy to fast forward through all those commercial spots.
ABC network has responded via an arrangement with cable companies Cox Communications, Inc. and Time Warner Cable, Inc. to stop the nasty little viewer practice. But a more promising trend has come along, and it fits the short attention span of today's TV watchers, whets the entertainment appetite, and effectively pushes products at the same time.
I call it "advertainment."
Some clever broadcasters have come up with a way to combine short programming with big name talent while integrating a commercial message.
For example, the Fox network recently aired a series of shorts in which the storyline centered around a taxi driver. In between commercials, viewers were treated to animated clips of a cabby named Oleg.
"It's something that pops up that is unexpected and the viewer says, ‘What the hell is that?' It may keep them around for a while longer," Jon Nesvig, Fox Broadcasting's president of sales, told the Wall Street Journal.
This fall NBC will air similar programming to that of Fox, which will feature Jerry Seinfeld. Seinfeld has reportedly taped 20 short episodes for the network, which are part entertainment and part commercial.
I predict another trend for this fallcampaign advertainment.
Picture this. The score is Bears 17, Packers 3. In pops Hillary with a Closet Palooza promo, telling everyone how pleased she is now that she has her new closet organizer with its roll-out sock drawers, built-in hamper, and double pant racks.
Or smack dab in the middle of a "Heroes" episode, John Edwards arrives to give Quaker Oats a plug as a skin exfoliator.
Or as George and Izzie from "Grey's Anatomy" are exchanging furtive glances, in walks a cranky John McCain applying HeadOn directly to his forehead.
That's advertainment, and it's coming to a plasma near you.
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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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