Calm down dear, it’s only a commercial
Knickers are getting twisted again. The Rasputin-like myths around TV ad-skipping will not lie down and die. If ‘ad-skipping’ is a problem, how come we’re watching a record number of TV ads at normal speed in the UK (2.6 billion a day)? The answer is the bleeding obvious: ad-skipping is not such a problem.
But you wouldn’t know that if you listened to some of the commentary around recent developments in TV, namely the arrival of product placement in UK-originated programmes from next Monday; a recommendation by a House of Lords committee that the number of minutes of TV advertising should be reduced; and Ofcom’s announcement this week that terrestrial commercial television broadcasters will be allowed longer advert breaks during dramas.
We thought we had done a reasonable job explaining the (minimal) impact of digital recorders like Sky+ or Freeview+ on the number of ads being watched, but we were maybe a bit too optimistic. Some recent commentators have insisted on making a link between ad-skipping and changes to TV advertising, as though every change is some sort of reaction to ad-skipping. But there is no link.
What makes it all the more irritating is that the facts are so freely available, and not just from us, should anyone bother to check. Ad-skipping seems to be the one issue where commentators don’t feel they should check the facts; instead they rely on what they reckon might be happening based on what they and their circle are doing.
If anyone reading this has been asked to write an article, appear on a radio phone-in show or a 24 hour news channel on the subject of TV advertising and they suspect they might get asked about the topic of ad avoidance please, please ring us for an up-to-date briefing.
In the mean time, here, once more with feeling, are the facts:
* Linear TV viewing in the UK reached a record high in 2010 of over 4 hours a day per viewer on average. An additional 1%-2% is watched on-demand online.
* Commercial TV accounts for nearly two-thirds of viewing, so the viewing of ads – at normal speed – has never been higher.
* The average UK viewer watches 46 ads each a day at normal speed (and collectively the UK watches 2.6 billion a day).
* The number of TV ads watched is about 35% higher than in 1999 and 23% higher than 2005.
* Recorded viewing represents just 7.3% of all TV viewing. 92.7% of the TV watched in the UK cannot be fast-forwarded. Two-thirds of ads are fast-forwarded in recorded viewing, so overall 4.8% of ads are lost to ‘zipping’.
* In homes that own a digital recorder (48% according to Ofcom), recorded viewing is higher, but still only 14% (this has decreased from 16% two years ago).
* According to data from Sky+ households, when people get Sky+ they watch 17% more TV and, as a result, watch more ads than before they owned one.
* BARB does not count any ad unless it is viewed at normal speed, so those that are fast-forwarded are free to advertisers, though clearly there is value in seeing them.
* ‘Zapping’ ie switching channels at ad breaks has always been a way of avoiding ads but the minute by minute BARB measurement properly accounts for this so advertisers only pay for people watching their ad.
* Research by Thinkbox and others has shown that viewers invest in digital recorders because they enjoy watching TV and want to capture more of it, not because they militantly want to fast-forward the ads.
* Many people, of all ages, enjoy lots of TV ads and will go online after seeing them on TV and watch them again, recommend them to friends, comment about them on Twitter, or join a Facebook groups for them. Unsurprisingly, they like good ads a lot more than average ones (though even the average ones work and make brands famous ref our heading).