Viewers speak out

By Published on .

Jean Dubois is a marketer's worst nightmare: She's an "ad-zapper."

Mrs. DuBois, a grandmother from Warren, Ohio, received her techie son's cast-off ReplayTV digital video recorder last Thanksgiving. Since then, she and her husband have become Replay devotees, using the set-top box to record and store their favorite TV shows on a daily basis. They've created customized channels on the system that group television program favorites into niches like travel, sitcoms and movies.

So does Mrs. DuBois use the "skip ahead" button on the remote control of her Replay set-top to leapfrog all the ads? You bet she does.

"Do you really find these commercials entertaining? I don't," she laughs. "I don't care to watch them."

Mrs. DuBois loves her Replay box. "I've got about eight or 10 things that I like ... I like to watch a lot of travel shows, Martha Stewart, `Keeping Up Appearances' on PBS."

Would she be inclined to view ads and offers that were specifically targeted to her, or use the system to research the purchase of a car, washing machine or vacuum?

"I don't want to do it on my TV--I'd be more apt to do it on my computer," she says.

If Mrs. DuBois is any indication of how consumers actually behave with digital video recorders, marketers will need to become a lot more savvy, developing seamless ad and promotional messages that are subtly woven into television viewing.

"It would be a real mistake to force the viewing," says Tom DuBois, the son who got his mom turned on to Replay.

Mr. DuBois is Chief Operating Officer for Active Research, a Burlingame, Calif.-based company that produces online buying guides and tracks the consumer purchase behavior on gadgets including digital video recorders. Mr. DuBois, an early adopter of technology, owns both a Replay and a TiVo system-and he's hooked.

"I would never go without one now, it's totally changed the way we watch TV ... I'll record the [David] Letterman show and I'll jump to the parts I want to see, like the Top 10 list. You can compress and tailor your TV viewing ... For my son, we record Arthur [cartoons] at 3 a.m," he says.

He's not alone. Sam Ash, father of five boys ages 8 to 14, has a Replay box in the family room and a TiVo in the master bedroom to help organize his family's TV viewing. The kids have built their own channels-one son, for example, enjoys sports collectibles, another is a Pokemon aficionado. "They all know how to do it themselves. It's not designed for geeks like me, it's designed for lay people-it's intuitive," Mr. Ash says.

He and his kids also skip the commercials.

Mr. Ash, creative director for MSA, a New York-based advertising and public relations agency, is acutely aware of how DVRs can be used for promotion and advertising. "I've watched the Replay system evolve primarily into a marketing tool. I'm getting all these downloads of movie trailers and promotions, and it's kind of forcing [the promotions and advertising] into my space," he says.

Mr. DuBois had a similar experience with his Replay box: When he paused a program, ads came up. Researching a particular purchase is another

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