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Clutter is a tough issue to define," says Jon Nesvig, Fox's president-sales. "To an advertiser, clutter is everyone else's ads."

The 1998 "Television Commercial Monitoring Report," a joint study by American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers, defines clutter as all nonprogramming content. And in 1998, prime-time commercial minutes increased by 36 seconds per hour up to an average of 11:48 minutes.

"This was the largest increase we've seen, but we have experienced these quantum half-minute jumps in past years," says Stu Gray, senior VP-media research services at BBDO Worldwide, New York, and a member of Four A's research committee. "That's over two full minutes per commercial hour since 1991, a huge amount of commercial time."

Even so, the study says prime time remains the least-cluttered daypart among the four major networks. So how do media buyers view clutter?

"It's been a strong year, demand wise," says Chris Geraci, senior VP-group director for national TV buying at BBDO. "It only makes sense in a year like that you're going to have more commercial time."

"A greater commercial load is always worrisome to us," says Bob Igiel, exec VP-U.S, director of broadcast buying and programming for Media Edge, New York. "There's always a great temptation [for networks] to increase commercial load."

"Clutter is a very real and serious concern," says Andrew Donchin, VP-director of national broadcast at Carat USA, New York. "Not only is your commercial being lost because there are so many commercials, but with the longer commercial breaks, people know they can 'graze' [other channels]."

Since networks don't face any penalties for selling more inventory, some feel they have nothing to lose-except maybe viewers.

"Program ratings are our greatest concern, so how clutter might affect viewers is important," says Keith Turner, president of NBC sales and marketing. "We're

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