To Foil DVRs, Promos Will be Embedded

Figuring out how to reach viewers equipped with digital video recorders with promos and commercials is one of the biggest challenges these days for television marketers and promo designers — a challenge with a flip side.

While the fast-forward button on DVRs has presented broadcast and cable network program designers with a growing dilemma, some industry executives said there’s some good news in the trend.

DVR users tend to watch more TV.

And even if they skip the ads, DVR owners still see more commercials and brands than viewers who may simply change the channel.


“Right now there aren’t many DVRs — it’s not a real big threat right now. But what we’re really seeing is that it’s going to be,” said 602 Communications president Graeme Newell, who moderated a session at the recent PROMAX & Broadcast Design Association conference in New York on “branding for the TiVo generation — embedding promotion within your show.”

Fox and other networks are getting more creative by integrating promotions into programs, Newell said. He ran a clip of an in-program promo from The Simpsons in which Homer eats a Fox logo that floats across the screen.

Newell calls these in-program promotions that also run on cable networks such as Spike TV “animated snipes.”

Lee Hunt LLC president Lee Hunt has another term for these promos — he calls them “violators.”

“Let’s call it what it is, and let’s be aware of it and not try to give it some kind of sanitized name,” Hunt said. “The thinking behind it is that if you do it right as the [commercial] break ends, as the segment’s beginning to ramp up again, people aren’t as deeply involved in the story so it’s not as quite a distraction.”

Hunt said he likes some of the in-program promotions he’s seen from Turner Network Television and TBS.

“What they’ve been so smart about is being consistent in their choreography,” Hunt said. “It’s a rhythm that their viewers get used to because it’s less irritating. It’s not like hearing an odd note.”

Networks may risk alienating viewers with more clutter, but Hunt said it’s too early to decide how much promotion is too much.

“At some point we’re going to cross the boundary but we don’t know where those boundaries are until we cross them,” Hunt said. “Nobody knows how far we can put this, particularly now that people are integrating advertising into [promotion] as well.”

Hunt moderated a panel session in which he showed examples of how some networks have integrated advertising into program promotions.


He cited research that found networks lose 20% of their audience if they run a commercial in the first break, but only 3% of the audience flips the channel if networks run a promo at the first break.

Some advertisers and networks have responded by running “situmercials, where you actually think you’re watching a segment from the show, but it’s actually a commercial,” Hunt said.

Car-insurance provider GEICO has been a proponent of these ads, producing spots that appear to be segments from a home-improvement show or Law & Order-type program, dropping a plug for its insurance company at the end of the spots, Hunt said.

Forrester Research projects that with cable and satellite providers aggressively rolling out DVRs manufactured by companies such as Motorola Corp. and Scientific Atlanta Inc., DVR penetration will grow to 7% of all U.S households this year. The firm expects DVR penetration will rise to 44% by 2009.