Research explores fast-fowarding through ads

I’D DO ANYTHING TO TURN YOU ON: Sending someone over to everyone’s house to break the fast-forward button on your DVR remote isn’t possible or legal, so the industry is trying to discover just what, if anything, you remember while speeding through commercials breaks on TiVo’d shows. A piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday revealed the latest findings on the front lines of commercial television’s desperate trench warfare with the new digital realities, and started with the gripping opening sentence: “What do Matt Damon and an animated piece of phlegm have in common?” (I guess it isn’t that they’re both f**king Sarah Silverman.)


In the interest of helping their advertisers make an impression with advertisers who fast forward through their commercials – and thus give them one last, lunging chance to keep their old economic model alive – NBC Universal has been running tests on just what gets retained by viewers, even while they’re sprinting soundlessly through commercial breaks at six-times speed (and making jokes with their spouse or roommate while digging into a bag of jalapeno taco chips and adjusting the waistband of their shorts.)


Using a set-up that evokes nothing less than Malcolm McDowell’s deprogramming in A Clockwork Orange (“Tracking biometric measurements such as eye movements, heart rate and sweat...”), the study discovered that “(t)he most successful ads concentrated the action and the brand's logo in the middle of the screen, didn't rely on multiple scene changes, audio or text to tell the story, and often used familiar characters. People were also more likely to remember an ad in fast-forward mode if they had seen it once before live.”


Two of the most memorable ads in NBC’s test were ones featuring Matt Damon in a trailer for The Bourne Ultimatum, and Mr. Mucus, the animated mascot in a series of commercials for Mucinex, a cough medicine. The study apparently debunks the theory that viewers don’t remember TV ads that they fast-forward through, and confirms another one that most people think of Matt Damon as something they need to blow out their nose.


GIMME GIMME GIMME (HANNAH MONTANA AFTER MIDNIGHT): Hedging its bets, the industry is still experimenting with video-on-demand, rolling out yet another trial run of a VOD system in Orange County, Calif, on part of the U.S. cable provider Cox’ nationwide system. In a deal made with ABC, Cox will be expanding an offering of ABC shows such as Lost and Desperate Housewives through a VOD set-top box – free of charge, provided the viewer watches between 2 and 5 minutes of commercials they can’t fast-forward through; annoying, but considerably less than the 17 minutes average on network TV. “"Anything we can do to bring greater convenience to our customers is better for us," said Cox spokesman David Grabert.

Just wait till subscribers discover that most of those commercials involve Matt Damon and Mr. Mucus. I’ll let your own imagination fill in the rest of that image.