Consumers To Marketers: Fast-Forwarding Through TV Commercials Means We’ll Be Less Likely To Hate You

(Photo credit: snacktime2007)
(Photo credit: snacktime2007)

Todd Juenger at TiVo points to his company’s DVR user data and says that fast-forwarding through television commercials is a sign that viewers are engaged with the programming. He suggests that’s a good thing for advertisers making such media investments. He explains:

The biggest, most popular primetime network shows are generally the most heavily timeshifted, and have the most commercial fast-forwarding among the timeshifted viewing. Take February 2009, for example. The top 10 highest rated programs, in terms of total viewership, had 74% of their viewing on a timeshifted basis, and among timeshifted viewers the commercial ratings averaged 30% of the surrounding programs (indicating, on average, 70% of viewers fast-forwarded any given ad)…Compare this amount of timeshifting and fast-forwarding to an average cable network. I chose a typical, fully distributed cable net that averages roughly a 0.5 primetime household rating. For the same month, it had only 46% of its viewing timeshifted, and among the timeshifted viewers, only 52%, on average, fast-forwarded through the commercials.

This work is fascinating and makes a lot of sense. If you’re engaged with television programming, you’re more likely to prevent commercial interruptions. If you’re not preventing commercial interruptions, there’s a greater chance your television just happens to be on in the background – with your attention elsewhere. It’s important for marketers to create and plan advertising with this phenomenon in mind.

I really like Todd Juenger’s work with TiVo DVR data, even with his friendly interpretation for media and marketing clients. But there’s major disruption in the mass-media television and marketing industry, and the intensity is picking up. So I’d like to offer some additional, more candid perspective.

As a regular viewer, I’d like to remind advertisers of another critical benefit of timeshifting. Specifically, if I’m able to fast-forward through commercials I’m not interested in, the chances of me experiencing cognitive dissonance with the programming or advertising decreases. In plain English, irrelevant advertising and disruptions can be like Chinese water torture. If people have the ability to filter you out if you’re irrelevant, the chances of viewers hating you become less – whether you’re the programmer or the advertiser. Conversely, if they like you, they’ll have the power to hone in on your offer.

Secondly, if I’m able to filter out commercials I find irrelevant, TiVo and its advertiser clients receive valuable data about me so they can offer me better advertising in the future. Moreover, TiVo has powerful data in which to set a more accurate dollar value for my intentions, desires and overall profile – which can be extremely helpful for media companies selling potential access to me.

Of course, video is getting more complicated. On-demand video via the Internet is getting more attractive, while computers, online video access devices, software, and high-definition television monitors are all merging. We don’t need the bundled cable lines and packages anymore, so it’s questionable how much we’ll need DVRs (and timeshifting) in their still decade-old format.

However, in the newly connected world of online video and high quality viewing, there’s a massive opportunity for navigation, filtering and simplification. We desperately need solutions here – for media companies, marketers and the people.

What do you think?

(See my past essay on the need for a television ad-quality score – prompted by another recent Juenger analysis.)

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Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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  1. I'm a TiVo user as well and I find that even when I fast forward at 3 tickies, I catch a lot of the ads (partially due to seeing the same ad before). I have, however, stopped fast forwarding when a commercial catches my attention (the Sprint Now Network commercials, for example).

    I also find the advertising that is presented to me through the “pause popups” (Text based ads pop up when you pause a show) and the “Now Playing” ads to be more appealing and eye catching: I will sit through a longer, more informative ad there than 30 seconds of noise.

    Although, I am also one of the weird ones who likes to watch the “popular” prime time shows live (Dollhouse, for example… I should note, though, that series tells you how long/short each commercial break is going to be… another tactic maybe?)

  2. Interesting. For the fast-forwarding, you really need the 30-second skip
    programmed on your box. It makes a world of difference:

    As for TiVo's ads, I believe they're kind of annoying. They should include a
    free, ad-supported version of TiVo, and keep ads away from people who pay
    the monthly subscription.

    Indeed, live, event programming is where viewers will always be held

  3. Nice post, max. I also time-shift and it is the rare ad (such as Apple-PC) that gets me to go back and watch. Interruption marketing is fading away slowly, I think.

  4. Nice post, max. I also time-shift and it is the rare ad (such as Apple-PC) that gets me to go back and watch. Interruption marketing is fading away slowly, I think.

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