Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: PVRs Are Not about to Kill the Spot Ad

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: PVRs Are Not about to Kill the Spot Ad

Article excerpt

There are few greater pleasures than finding a piece of research that confirms all your instincts and overturns conventional wisdom.

Up and down the media conference platforms of the land you can hear people who should know better spreading doom about personal video recorders (PVRs) and the future of commercial television.

Commercial television will soon be dead, they say. With PVRs we automatically record everything and switch on fast-forward mode, and that's goodnight for the spot advertisement. Channels are obviously dead too, because the viewer concentrates on recording individual programmes from all over the place - a manifestation of the burgeoning on-demand world.

The doom-mongers will find it rather more difficult to make their case in future thanks to work by Professor Patrick Barwise of the London Business School and Sarah Pearson of ACB Actual Consumer Behaviour, which was published last week.

Not for the first time, marketing academic Barwise has punctured futuristic nonsense with observation, facts and sound judgment. The pair have carried out an ethnographic study, recording from second to second what people actually do with PVRs, as opposed to what they are supposed to do or say they do.

And guess what? The viewers observed actually use the marvellous devices in an extraordinarily sensible way: the PVR is 'grafted' on to existing viewing routines after they have watched programmes on their favourite channels. Of the 22 adults studied, 21 went first to programme guides, and most only used the PVR if there was nothing much to watch on the familiar channels.

It is the numbers that are really interesting. In the homes studied, 70% of commercials were seen live and 30% time-shifted. When other sets in the home are included, the live viewing of ads rises to 80%. BARB research suggests that the figure could even be 86%.

Also, those ads that get the fast-forward treatment are hardly lost entirely, because of the viewers' detailed attention to the screen as they race through at varying speeds.

On the specific issue of ad avoidance, Barwise concludes that the likely impact of PVRs has been greatly exaggerated. His numbers, and expected PVR penetration rates, cast doubt on predictions that the devices will have reduced commercial audiences by 10% in 10 years' time. …

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