Water Cooler burbled a bit last week upon reading a New York Times article (and gazing at a recent Boston Globe article) chronicling the Peacock network's efforts to show that people who fast-forward through ads really (really) remember what the ads are about and what they are trying to sell.
Calling Malcolm McDowell! This isn't quite the same as strapping down a young hoodlum in a Kubrick film, but the following does evoke a similar vision of an authoritative institution trying to make sure the little guy behaves. NBC and a company called Innerscope outfit a would-be average Joe in a black-netted vest with tubes coming out of it and then monitor the subject's sweat, heartbeats and movement. Apparently, sensing the presence of some of these things proves a sped-up ad has as much to say as one played in regular time. (Of course, sweat, heartbeats and movement could also result from a guy on a couch biting into a particularly spicy sandwich, but we bet NBC and Innerscope are taking this sort of thing into account.)
Why can't the networks just admit that people who speed through ads are doing so to avoid them altogether and get back to the program the commercials are interrupting? Like it or not, that's one of the things that attracts people to DVRs. Alas, commercial ratings are here, meaning that ads that are not "must-see-TV," to borrow one NBC mantra, are just a remote-control-button push from oblivion. So the burden has increased on networks and marketers to come up with evidence proving ads are something we want to see, not flee.
Innerscope is working on a second test for NBC, the Times tells us, aimed at discovering whether the number of times a brand shows up in an ad or how quickly the camera cuts to a new scene influences reaction and recall. But throwing up colorful logo upon colorful logo on screen sounds like a creative director's worst nightmare, and not far removed from the generic blah-dom of paid-search web advertising. Here's a solution: Create 30-second spots that delight, surprise or inform. Those make hearts race and people sweat too.