Broadcast networks are preparing to give us fewer commercials, among other changes that may be on tap for 2007, according to Brian Steinberg and Suzanne Vranica of the Wall Street Journal.
Network TV executives are beginning to realize that the dozens of ads and promotions that run during their most-watched programs don't create the best environment for getting a specific ad message across to consumers. Network TV runs an average of about 15 minutes of ads and promotions per hour, according to research from WPP Group's MindShare. Advertisers say research shows that running fewer ads -- reducing what they call the "clutter" -- would make it easier for viewers to remember the marketing message of those that do air.
During the past 18 months, some big TV networks have begun to experiment in earnest with cutting back the number of ads. Several have done sponsorship deals in which a single advertiser buys all the ad time during a show, often using less than the usual amount of commercial time. American Express Co., for example, sponsored an entire episode of "The West Wing" with a limited number of ads. Nissan North America and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Brothers movie studio respectively sponsored debut episodes of "Heroes" on NBC and "Smith" on CBS -- with limited ads.
Media buyers say this technique usually results in better viewer recall of the ads. In the coming year, look for one advertiser to cook up a deal with a network that finds the advertiser buying exclusive rights to a series -- and likely airing fewer ads in the show as a result.