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January 25, 2016
How Long Will the 30-Second TV Ad Remain?
 
The way consumers watch TV has changed. The way content providers release shows has changed. And yet, the main way the TV networks provide advertising and television services has not changed.

What is holding them back? Fear of something new? Lobbyists? 

One thing is for sure: In the not-so-far future, cable and TV networks will be forced to do something new or be left behind. We can assume that no cable "a la carte" bills will come out of Congress during an election year, so advertisers and consumer advocacy groups can place that battle on the back burner. But the way advertising is done on television is within the wheelhouse of advertisers and content providers. What conversations are they having that can change the way advertising is done on TV?

A while ago, we mentioned a company called WatchWith, a group that is trying to provide advertising in a "real-time" format. Its goal is to keep the audience engaged with not only the content, but with the channel as well. Pretty interesting concept, and could help limit commercial breaks if done right.

We bring this up because of an article in Variety that looked intently at TV advertising, to the point that the writer makes the suggestion that networks and consumers are actually on the same page: They both want less advertising.

It's a sticky subject for networks, because advertising is a huge piece of revenue. So the question posed is this: How can networks provide quality advertising that both satisfies and engages the consumer while maintaining a positive revenue stream?

The author highlights one way to change the advertising model: Creating content that ties into show storylines. They mention how Pepsi did that with the show Empire; one of the characters was in a Pepsi ad. We agree; the Pepsi/Empire/Fox relationship is creative and different, and it provides a way for consumers to easily tie their love for the show with the Pepsi brand.

It is unlikely that every single brand would be able to create that kind of content with shows, but it does show brands how they can get attention without using the tired 30-sec model. Other methods mentioned included creating short videos that are 1–2 minutes and showing them either at the beginning or the middle of the show. Though that would be cool, there would be fewer spots for multiple companies. Therefore, that airtime may be more expensive for the few brands doing it. If done right, it might not be that big of deal.

We liken this to how "soap operas" got started. Proctor & Gamble and other soap manufacturers sponsored these shows due to the overwhelmingly female audience at that time who were home and thought to be cleaning and taking care of the house. Could we see a digital-era version of this, where brands sponsor chunks of time in shows in order to be linked to both the show and the audience? Quite the leap in thinking, but don't automatically dismiss it.

At least, it's worth a conversation.

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Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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