Commercials for these marketers targeting corporate customers once were found mainly on news shows, such as those airing on weekdays before 7 a.m. or on Sunday mornings.
Now, however, marketers are increasingly placing spots in*and spending more money on*wide-reach entertainment programming, such as sporting events and top 10 prime-time series.
"With the industry moving to the home market, your target is broadening," says Laura Dearborn, exec VP-media director at Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, San Francisco.
"When you're looking at owning a PC, that's still a pretty broad group of people and it's getting bigger. So TV becomes more of an option than it was in the past."
An analysis of Competitive Media Reporting's MediaWatch data for the fourth quarter*the yearly quarter when high-tech marketers have spent the most money in TV, to reach holiday buyers*over the last three years reveals this shift.
Spending in prime-time by high-tech marketers rose from $11.9 million to $42.3 million from the fourth quarter of 1992 to the same quarter last year.
In the fourth quarter of 1992, the prime-time series with the most high-tech marketers' spots*outside of news magazines and sports programming*were NBC's "L.A. Law" and ABC's "Civil Wars," each with five. Four other general entertainment shows carried four spots apiece in that quarter.
But in he same period of 1994, the non-sports and non-news series with the most spots was Fox's "The X-Files," with 14. Two shows, ABC's "Coach" and NBC's "ER," had nine apiece.
Prime-time news shows and sports programming also saw an increase in computer-related spots. The number running on ABC's "Monday Night Football" has almost quadrupled from 10 in 1992 to 39 last year. CBS' "60 Minutes" and "Dateline NBC" also saw big gains in high-tech commercials.
In fact, the total number of computer-related commercials on prime-time series has jumped from 129 in the fourth quarter of 1992 to 251 in the same quarter last year.
Furthermore, the reduced emphasis on reaching business customers has altered the slate of non-prime-time shows purchased.
In the last quarter of 1992, ABC's "Nightline," "ABC News This Morning" and "NBC News at Sunrise" ran 297 spots, totaling $3 million, from high-tech marketers. But in the same period of 1994, these three programs combined for only 63 spots and $944,000 in ad expenditures from computer companies.
meanwhile, pro football coverage has scored big among high-tech marketers.
The number of spots on NFL game-day programming has jumped from 70 in the fourth quarter of 1992 to 223 in the same period last year, while quarterly spending skyrocketed from $5.5 million to $25.1 million.
Also making gains: late-night comedy and talk shows. Fourth-quarter spending by high-tech marketers has jumped from $68,000 in 1992 to $1.4 million in 1993 and $1.8 million last year.
"AS far as sports and prime time, those are the high-rated shows that for any marketer, it's primo property," says Phil Frank, VP-associate media director, Ammirati & Puris/Lintas, New York. The agency handles Compaq Computer Corp. and Epson America.
The change in network TV usage reflects not just a broadening of the target market but also an influx of new ad dollars into this segment. Total fourth-quarter network TV spending by high-tech marketers jumped from $27.6 million in 1992 to $80.5 million last year.
"In large part, this category is beginning to mirror other categories in its expansion. In reality, it's just trying to bring these companies to a more massive audience," Mr. Frank says.
With high-tech marketers allocating more money to TV, agency media planners are using proprietary methods of manipulating data from syndicated market researchers or other sources to create their TV plans.
However, media department executives say they still need to be selective in where they can put client dollars.
"It's not like we're Procter & Gamble and we're doing... 50 points a day, 16 points in early fringe, etc. For the most part, we're still doing selective TV and looking at programs to match our demos," says Scott Daly, VP-media director at Hajjar/Kaufman, Marina Del Rey, Calif., agency for the Canon USA computer printer.
Mr. Daly says Canon's target audience is different from other printer marketers in that it targets the "So-Home"user*small office and home*and not the "SoHo"customer*small office at home.
As a result, he says, Canon spots are found on various programs, from mass-audience shows like NBC's "Friends" to programs that do better with mothers, like NBC's "Sisters," to family-oriented shows like ABC's Friday lineup.
To select shows for client Apple Computer, the media department at BBDO Worldwide, Los Angeles, analyzes Apple's product registration-card database and syndicated research.
Using different lifestyle clustering techniques, planners there can link program ratings directly to finite clusters of people who are buying Apple computers, says Kristina Allen, BBDO exec VP-media services & business development.
"We left the demo era of targeting three years ago and just run these analyses," Ms. Allen says. "It has to do with lifestyles, consumer households as a whole and everything that goes into a profile rather than just age or income or education."
The influx of dollars from high-tech marketers with new or expanded TV ad campaigns, such as Microsoft Corp., should mean the fourth quarter of 1995 will show another spending increase.
"The earliest adopters in the home market were probably those who worked at home. Now we're finding the whole family is using computers," Mr. Daly says. "We target moms, dads, even kids as influences. There are 3-year-olds using computers now."