PVRs haven't killed the 30-second ad, but brands will have to adapt to cut through on the platform.
Sky's proclamation last week that it has now installed Sky+ boxes in more than 2m UK homes has put PVRs firmly back in the spotlight - but this time the talk is less of the threat they pose to the 30- second spot and more of the creative opportunities they present.
Initial concerns over ad-skipping now appear exaggerated. Sky claims that 87% of Sky+ viewing is live, so the advertising experience has remained much the same as traditional TV. Although 60% of ads are skipped in time-shifted programmes, the fact that the majority of Sky+ viewing is done live results in just a 7%-8% loss of impacts in homes with Sky+, which is less than 1% of the market, according to Jeremy Pounder, consumer insight manager at Starcom.
Tess Alps, chief executive of TV marketing body Thinkbox, believes that the threat posed by PVRs was 'massively exaggerated' by distorted early research results. 'Much of the early research relied on earlier adopters and claimed behaviour,' she points out. 'People say all kinds of things they don't go on to do.' Alps says the initial panic resulting from these findings shook marketers' confidence and damaged the industry.
With penetration of PVRs currently at 10%, rising to 15% this year, according to media agency Initiative's estimate, and with the relatively slow growth of Sky+ since its launch five years ago, most marketing directors will continue to adopt a 'wait and see' approach to PVRs, according to Grant Millar, joint managing director of Vizeum. 'With so much change in the TV market, many are holding off from narrower and deeper forms of communications,' he says.
Moreover, while PVR-specific content has been slow in coming to air, some brands have turned to other emerging channels. Mark Boyd, head of content at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, cites the examples of Baileys, which has created specific content for YouTube, and Audi, which has its own channel on Sky Digital.
'The PVR market has yet to reach critical mass, (so) creative is not being developed for it. Sky+ is still a long way off from delivering personalised advertising,' he says.
Chris Wood, who heads the PR division at Cake, believes PVRs nevertheless represent a threat linked to a broader shift in media consumption. 'There is no doubt that consumers want more control and are skipping ads.'
With both Sky and BT Vision expected to roll out dedicated PVR advertising platforms - the latest Sky+ boxes have a partitioned area for ad content - the development of PVR-specific executions is likely to see a leap forward in creativity and could help combat this.
Showing the way is Orange. Its Sky+-specific programme Orange and Empire at the Movies Show is preceded by an ad that flashes a dedicated promotional code when being fast-forwarded.
The market is more developed in the US, where spot ads for brands such as ABC on TiVo have been created with codes that are revealed when viewers slow the execution down; other innovations include a Sony Bravia ad with alternate endings. …