Remember when everyone was predicting that the commercial skipping feature in TiVo was going to destroy commercial television? Well the folks at TiVo may end up actually saving Madison Avenue rather than destroying it after all. You’ll still be able to fast-forward through commercials, but you won’t escape the marketer’s clutches in the process come next spring:
By March, TiVo viewers will see “billboards,” or small logos, popping up over TV commercials as they fast-forward through them, offering contest entries, giveaways or links to other ads. If a viewer “opts in” to the ad, their contact information will be downloaded to that advertiser—exclusively and by permission only—so even more direct marketing can take place.
By late 2005, TiVo expects to roll out “couch commerce,” a system that enables viewers to purchase products and participate in surveys using their remote controls.
How much do you want to bet that by opting in to those ads you’ll also be giving those advertisers permission telemarket to you even if you’ve signed onto the Do Not Call List? Either way, you’re still going to see an ad whether you want to or not. But that’s not all! TiVo has also announced that they will officially begin selling your viewing habits to marketers:
Perhaps even more significant is TiVo’s new role in market research. As viewers watch, TiVo records their collective habits—second by second—and sells that information to advertisers and networks. (It was TiVo that quantified the effect of Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction,” reporting a 180% increase in the number of replays reported by viewers.)
For advertisers it’s an extraordinary boon, a quicker and more effective way than they’ve ever had of measuring the effects of their TV commercials.
For viewers, TiVo’s new strategy means the technology famously christened “God’s machine” by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael K. Powell is rapidly becoming a marketer’s best friend, proving that try as they might, consumers cannot hide from marketing.
We know where you live! We know what you watch! We know you like to see Janet’s right tit repeatedly! And we’re going to sell all of that info without making our units any cheaper to buy or eliminating our monthly service charge for your TV guide! Muhwhahahahahahahahahahahahaa!
Traditional network television viewing, by comparison, can seem antiquated. The number of American households with a TiVo or TiVo-like recording system is expected to increase from 5% to 41% in five years, according to Forrester Research, which studies technology’s effect on business.
For this reason, ad agency executives who initially ignored TiVo and its digital video recorder technology, or DVR, are now praising it as an industry savior.
“I look at TiVo being first generation of the TV advertising of the future,” says Tim Hanlon, a vice president at Starcom MediaVest Group, one of the world’s largest media-buying companies, with clients including General Motors Corp., Procter & Gamble Co. and Best Buy Co. “There’s a whole witch’s brew of change coming to the linear television form.”
Customer response so far has been mixed. Some TiVo fans are fine with the change so long as it helps the company to survive and others are wary that this is only the beginning of a trend that’s going to destroy what makes them fans of TiVo in the first place. Of course if the bill in Congress I mentioned the other day goes through and makes it illegal to fast forward through commercials then this becomes a moot point anyway, but it shows that marketers are at least a bit smarter than some of the big media companies in recognizing their need to adapt to new technology instead of banning it.