My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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innovative TV ads

For quite some time now, TV channels have bemoaned services like TiVo for allowing viewers to skip over ads. I think that the TV stations are barking up the wrong tree. More importantly, I think that they’re out of touch with viewers.

One of the fascinating things about teens and advertising is that they don’t mind it. In fact, ads have come to signal “free” and so when teens see ads on websites, they assume that the service will continue to be free and that creates a sense of relief. Their complaint is not that ads are there, but that they are rarely relevant let alone interesting.

TV ads are the boringist. I have to admit that I watch them profusely in hotels and airport lounges because they are so fascinatingly bad. I have to imagine that people are trying to think up new TV ads, but do they bother for anything other than the Super Bowl? We all know that there are plenty of people who tune into the Super Bowl just to watch the ads. And there are certainly ads that people lurve and fans put them on YouTube. But most of them are le awful, especially those for political candidates and Save The XYZ causes.

For a long time now, I’ve been waiting for an ad that is directed at the TiVo crowd. Forget the 30-second forward people, there are still plenty who just use the 2X fast forward button. What if an ad only made sense using TiVo’s slowed-down, frame skipping view? Wouldn’t that be a trip? Rather than bitching about viewers, why not use the medium to play with them? Make something that they *want* to watch, are humored to watch? Am I asking too much when I ask TV stations to innovate?

Maybe a politician with a sense of creativity will try out a new tactic for reaching audiences through traditional media (cuz we all know that it’s still the primary mechanism for reaching mass audiences)? OK, maybe I’m dreaming. But how fun would it be to create an ad that can be viewed at different speeds with different messages? ::giggle::

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9 comments to innovative TV ads

  • your wish is my command.
    we’ve been doing this stuff for a number of years.
    have a look at my site eaonpritchard.com,
    the xbox360 one might tickle you.
    and weapon7.com (where I work).
    E

  • General Electric has a few commercials which work the other way – they include a one second snippet at the end of a regular commercial which contains 30 frames of content and only makes sense if you have a Tivo or VCR to step through on super-slo-mo. http://www.ge.com/onesecondtheater/indexFlash.html has some examples.

  • Sprite has had the Sublymonal campaign with lots of quick images that you need to slow down to see.

  • How about one where you get a different message when you watch it in reverse?

  • John B.

    That’s been a touchy subject in the advertising world – I believe a major network refused to run a KFC ad that employed “Tivo-proof” subliminal messaging.

    Something you might be interested in, danah, is the movement toward user created advertising

  • John B – why’d they refuse? Why is this touchy?

    Thanks for all of the fun links!

    So which public forums exist where advertisers are talking about what does and does not work in terms of handling these layered ads?

  • John B.

    danah-
    This article from MSNBC spells it out pretty well. ABC didn’t want to get in trouble with the FCC.

    Gosh, I wish I could give you a list of interactive advertising blogs I regularly visit. I usually just get an idea in my head, google it, then surf from blog to blog. There are quite a few blogs out there though. Ad Age and Ad Week are also pretty good sources.

    One of the great things about interactive advertising is that it’s always at the forefront of trends.

    Thanks for all of the great posts! I found your site on accident after searching for something to back up my inkling that MySpace wasn’t made up of 100% white teenagers. I found your ‘controversial’ essay and was hooked.

  • In the UK we have a long tradition of entertaining TV ads, although they aren’t necessarily adapted for Tivo-style devices. When I visited N. America this summer, I was surprised at how old fashioned US ads still are. More and more campaigns in the UK ‘hide’ the brand, and become more about passing on a funny/intriguing viral message (and not just lowest common denominator Budweiser-style catch phrases). The brand then gets unveiled only part way through the campaign. Suddenly, advertising is intriguing when it doesn’t give everything away from the first instance.