Bumper adverts make it to TV, and may make quite an impact

While the focus of attention this week in broadcast and TV networks is the merger between Discovery and Scripps, simply because it involves $14.6 billion (if you include the $2.7 billion assumption of debt), there is another scenario that is playing out which involves very little money, but which will weigh equally heavily on the future of US broadcast networks, and that’s the six second “bumper” adverts.

We have written about it two months ago, when Fox said it would adopt it for a trial on its online services and that it would “eventually” use it on TV. This week it made the jump to broadcast TV, used for the first time on Fox’s Teen Choice and it has the potential to change a 6 decades long tradition of how broadcast advertising is sold.

We don’t yet know how much each slot is being sold for, but you can bet that advertising is advertising – it’s not the number of seconds that you are on the screen for, but the amount of brand lift your product experiences. Buying 6 seconds may end up costing almost as much as buying 30 seconds and of course while the average 30 second spot might cost around $112,000, you can pay half that and ten times that across the US TV landscape, depending on the audience. But we think it will actually become far “more” expensive than the 30 second slot and that broadcast TV networks will use it to try to make up lost ground to online.

What we can assume is that Fox tried the format online and liked it, and advertisers liked it so much they agreed to pay the rate Fox wanted for it on broadcast. We know that the first advertiser was Duracell, a Proctor and Gamble brand that spends $39 million a year on advertising in the US alone – it is not an inexperienced TV advertiser and it will have done its homework.

We would expect Fox to collect lots of data on its effectiveness and we expect that effectiveness to be just as exaggerated in broadcast as it is online. In the online world it has been part of loading un-skippable adverts onto YouTube. Many of the early adverts defied audiences to skip the advert, saying things like, “You can’t skip this XYZ advert, because it’s already over,” as their main voice-over, with the brand name dropped into where the XYZ is. In broadcast, you have to reach for the remote, either to pause live TV or to switch channels, and in that time the advert will be over.

It depends of course on how the networks runs the adverts. If they try to run 10 in a row to create one minute of advertising, habit says that the viewer will have time to reach for the remote, or better still install ad-blocking software on his smart TV. But if they are random and occupy less time on the TV, then perhaps they will just be allowed to run – not enough time to break your concentration, but enough time to make their mark.

In digital you can simply click on the advert to view a longer form, maybe 2 or 4 minute advertising campaign, while the video is paused. This may end up being possible on broadcast adverts and perhaps each advert could contain a tag that runs off the edge of the screen for up to a minute after, giving you time to click on it to show a long form ad either now or at the end of the program. People will try such things and we are at the start of a learning curve that will herald a new age in advertising thinking – this is an alternative to programmatic or it is an extension to it, depending on how you are set up.

There will be tons of innovation around this, and 30 second or 15 second campaigns will be broken into 2 or 3 to make different points in each 6 second ad, and then later a 30 second adverts with all 3 points night be shown.

It has got the advertising community thinking again and they will be seeing this as a point of differentiation – a new call to the “creative” side of advertising. This is something we can be good at, some will say. And that will lead to more and more 6 second inventory coming into being and that in turn, will lead to new ways of breaking up TV programming.

There will be frustration on the part of the viewer of not knowing when an adverts starts, if this is a 6 second advert or a 30 second one and that too will have to be somehow signaled. People will choose to delay the start to some programs, and watch them with the remote in their hand waiting for a 6 second ad, and pressing the fast forward button immediately – but most people can’t be bothered with that level of reactiveness.

In the end program makers currently make programs for 38 minutes, anticipating 22 minutes of advertising being shown inside the hour – and that too may have to change.

This at least gives broadcasting something to fight back with and we anticipate US broadcast networks accelerating into the practice and it spreading around the rest of the world just as fast. The only problem is, why did US broadcast networks have to wait for so long to pioneer this, when interruptive long form advertising has been damaging TV programs for 60 odd years? Greedy perhaps.