Media Redefined: The death of clutter
by Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) Nobody looks for advertising.
It seems like an obvious statement but many conversations, when developing a campaign, may start with a premise that this is just what the consumer has been waiting for. Except they haven’t been. And they never have. And they never will. And when advertising finds you, the reaction may be anything on the scale from irritation to ambivalence to love.
This uncertainty is very disconcerting when so much time has been put into planning and executing (hopefully) a brilliant creative product and media plan. What is absolutely clear is that if consumers have the choice of not being interrupted by advertising, they will take it. Nobody chooses to be distracted. Two recent developments driven by the ever more powerful Netflix have reinforced this point
Networks in the US are now having to relook how much advertising they allow in their programming as they realise that, if they want to compete, they’re going to need to cut back on interruptive ad breaks.
Starting this autumn in the northern hemisphere (when the new TV ‘season’ starts), there’ll be substantial shrinkage across key time channels and programmes. Eg, Fox will be reducing advertising time on Sundays nights by 40%, with ad breaks no longer more than a minute and having only two 30s ads. It is calling them “JAZ” pods — Just A and Z. Nothing in between.
NBC is planning to cut the number of ads in close to 50 prime time shows by about 20%, and trying not to have more than three ads per ad break.
How will they make up the revenue shortfall? By increasing the spot cost, of course. They will be selling hard the concept of more effectiveness because of less clutter — and the resultant less likelihood that a viewer will switch channels. I can only imagine how heated negotiations on these debatable points must be.
Locally, we’re long way from this. DStv seems intent on trying to place as much advertising as possible across as much of its very large inventory, doing this through packages which reduce the cost of most spots to the bare minimum. Clients are happy, but I don’t think viewers are.
SABC is in too much financial trouble to even consider this. E.tv would probably argue that, as its viewers don’t pay for the channel, they must take what they get.
The second development is something which Netflix itself has started to talk about doing which moves it in the opposite direction, yet with an important twist. It has mooted introducing limited advertising but will offer those customers who are happy with that a reduced monthly premium. If not, things will carry on as normal, paying the same rate and no advertising.
This feels like a very healthy scenario which allows for choice, and the potential compromise is well understood. I think opt-in is the future of advertising.
Both scenarios highlight the fundamental shift that has finally started to land. Shovelling unwanted ads relentlessly down people’s throats may have been the accepted way historically. Viewers, listeners and readers are no longer tolerant of this. What this means is that every brands fear of getting lost in the clutter will finally go away. Brands or consumers will have to pay, but at least the advertising has more chance of working.
Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) is managing director of Connect, an M&C Saatchi Company, with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Martin has spent 18 years in the industry, and has previously worked at Ogilvy and was MD of MEC Nota Bene in Cape Town. He contributes the monthly “Media Redefined” column, in which he challenges norms in the media space, to MarkLives.com.
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