Formula for TiVo-proof Ads Remains Elusive

DVR Maker's Latest Data Show Pod Position Doesn't Determine Whether Viewers Watch

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- You can say one thing for TiVo viewers: They seem to be consistent in their inconsistency. The latest monthly statistics on how the device's users watch commercials continue to show that an ad's position within a particular commercial break does not play a role in whether people watch the ad or skip past it.
'It is important to note that just because all of the top commercials in June aired during the same show doesn't mean they all had the same rating,' said TiVo's Todd Juenger.
'It is important to note that just because all of the top commercials in June aired during the same show doesn't mean they all had the same rating,' said TiVo's Todd Juenger. Credit: AP

Despite the fact that many of the best-watched commercials appeared in the May 29 season finale of "House," they had vastly different ratings, showing once again that advertisers will be hard-pressed to come up with unifying characteristics for commercials that will get consumers to watch rather than fast-forward.

Top show, different ad ratings
"It is important to note that just because all of the top commercials in June aired during the same show doesn't mean they all had the same rating," said Todd Juenger, VP-general manager, TiVo Audience Research and Management. Indeed, the ad with the best commercial rating based on TiVo's sample, including live and time-shifted viewing, was for Wendy's (12.1), while the lowest-rated ad was for a Gatorade beverage (8.4), a difference of 44%, according to TiVo. Meanwhile, the highest-rated ad among viewers who watched the program later was for AT&T Wireless, at 7.3. The lowest-rated ad was for Tresemme Thermal Creations, which garnered a 3.2. The difference in that case was 128%.

(Despite its May 29 air date, the "House" finale was included in the June statistics because TiVo is following a broadcast-industry calendar, which does not necessarily jibe with the actual calendar, Mr. Juenger said.)

TiVo introduced its StopWatch data, available since February and used by Publicis Groupe's Starcom USA and Interpublic Group of Cos., to analyze second-by-second viewership patterns by an anonymous, aggregated and random sample of 20,000 TiVo units. The increasing availability of such data illustrates the intense scrutiny being placed on the venerable 30-second commercial.

Under a microscope
Companies including Nielsen, TiVo and TNS Media Research all have started to offer more granular data about commercial performance. With marketers and TV networks already agreeing in large part to base their ad deals on Nielsen's new commercial-ratings data for the coming TV season, ads will be under the microscope as never before -- including their performance within particular programs and specific ad breaks. As TiVo's data help point out, some long-held assumptions about which ads stand out may be put to the test.

In June, as in previous months, many of the least-fast-forwarded brand campaigns continued to hail from the far ends of Madison Avenue's creative range -- either the showiest (ads for movies) or the most bare-bones (direct-response TV ads). Among the campaigns TiVo said were least-fast-forwarded were ads from Cort furniture rentals, Hooters restaurant and Tax-Masters.

Looking solely at broadcast networks during prime time, the least-fast-forwarded campaign for the month of June was a direct-response ad for Bowflex exercise equipment, while ads for the OnStar vehicle-monitoring service, Hyundai's Sonata, the latest "Harry Potter" movie, and the Lunesta and Plavix medications followed.
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