When Clutter Creeps Into the Programs

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Marketers and their media agencies have long decried clutter, especially on TV, but nowadays, thanks to product placement deals and more aggressive PR tactics by the programmers for their other fare, clutter is creeping into the shows themselves.
Mary Hart
Mary Hart

Over at media buying agency Carat, executives decided to look at just how much time was taken up on syndicated entertainment news shows such as "Entertainment Tonight" and "Extra" by ads, promos, billboards and teases for upcoming segments. On one night, April 13, Carat found that the 30-minute program had 10 minutes of national and local commercials, promos and billboards, and 2 minutes and 20 seconds of teases within the program time. "Entertainment Tonight," which has 31 minutes of program time, had 11 minutes of ads and three minutes and 10 seconds of teases. And that's not including the show's programming that is devoted to airing trailers -- in essence, movie ads -- a staple of both shows.

TNS Media Intelligence has tracked brand appearances for the last year, noting how many times products show up within programming and whether they were placed there because of product-placement deals or because prop masters just decided to include particular brands for verisimilitude. Jon Swallen, TNS's senior VP-research, analyzed the number of seconds of in-program brand appearances vs. the number of seconds of paid network ad time, (excluding network promos), for the period of March 28, 2005 to Nov. 27, looking at 174 different prime and late night programs on the six networks. The average program had a ratio of 36 seconds of brand appearances for every 100 seconds of network ad time. But the ratio was much higher for each of the three late-night talk shows, with NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" averaging 93 seconds for every 100 seconds of network ad time, CBS' "The Late Show With David Letterman" with 62 seconds, and ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" at 53 seconds.

Watercooler would love if some enterprising media agency decided to do a similar analysis for the morning-news programs, which often promote their networks' own prime-time programming with interviews of cast members. Of course, the next step, given all the talk about engagement, would be to see if the audience pays as much attention to these segments as they do regular programming, or whether promos actually work to keep audiences in their seats.
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