Once again, a sort-of “back to the future” approach is tried.

If you’ve ever seen archival footage of TV shows from the 50s, you know that it was nothing extraordinary for a news anchor to smoothly transition from the latest Sputnik sighting to a pitch for Ballantyne’s Ale or Schaefer, “the beer to have, when you’re having more than one.”

ABC has mined that meme to come up with a strategy to try to defeat the growing numbers of TiVo-esque DVRs; starting in May, on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the commercials will be live skits that are (somehow?) integrated into the rest of the show. Damnifyknow how the directors are going to work around this one – it’s going to be a difficult trick to try to keep the show from coming to a screeching halt and poisoning the tone, when the host has to look into the camera and ask the late-night viewers if their legs are feeling a little twitchy right now, and perhaps they could use a nice restless leg potion from Bristol-Myers-Squibb, blah blahditty blah…


…now live spots are seen as a way to standout, just as the
official yardstick for measuring ads on network TV has shifted to
commercial ratings. Advertisers also believe live ads may be one
way to beat the DVR by integrating the product into the content of
the show. Last May Garmin, maker of car navigational systems, aired
the first live commercial on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno
in 14 years.

“Probably most people had no idea they were being pitched a
commercial,” said Steve Lovell, media sponsorship marketing manager
at Garmin and the architect of the spot. “It looked like a skit.”
He said that post-telecast research showed that effectiveness and
awareness levels for the live spot were significantly higher than
for many of the company’s traditional 30-second spots. Garmin is
planning another live spot on the Tonight Show in the second
quarter of this year.

At least TV advertising is trying to address the erosion of audience attention and the effects of ad-skipping technology before it reaches a total crisis/meltdown mode. I think that we’re going to see a lot more of the types of ad insertion models that online video is using – takeovers, frames, side-by-sides, etc. The CNN crawl has acccustomed people to having two or more information flows on the screen at all times, so the audience (particularly the younger, more nimble-minded amongst us) perhaps won’t be freaked and overwhelmed.

Still, I think the sweet spot advertisers should be aiming at is not to figure out better means of jamming in intrusive ads, but better means of letting viewers choose opt-in ads. If the audience is actually interested in the product being touted, well, it’s not intrusive, it’s informative. Example: I’m in the market to lease a new car. Car ads are all of a sudden a helluva lot more interesting to me than they were before. Given a choice, I’d look at a few of them, rather than ads for new cellphones, since I’m married to the iPhone for at least the next two years.

The biggest hurdle to making the opt-in approach work is that it requires that I give up some of my privacy to the ad server(s) so that they know what kind of content they should be shipping me, and the last 25 years of relentless telemarketers/spammers has made us all wary of giving any marketer any means by which to contact us, because we know where that leads.

The ad agency that can clear that obstacle in a way that lets me choose without having to endure endless ads for “V1@gr@” and “Tex@s H0ld’em P0ker T0urn@mentz” will be Teh Winnar.