Thursday, May 04, 2006

The New Search for WMDs

Cyn opsis: Weekender

The New Search for WMDs
by Dave Zornow

        The search for WMDs continues. Despite a lack of evidence proving they are a threat, our leaders continue to make statements -- un-supported by research -- to scare their constituents.
        The industry fervor over Weapons of Media Destruction (WMDs) began two years ago when Nielsen first announced plans to segregate “live” viewing from DVR playback ratings.
        Stoked by agencies fears that viewers would stop watching commercials, some agencies have campaigned to discredit commercial exposure during DVR playback and only accept live ratings. Last week another industry leader proclaimed that “live plus seven” (DVR playback within a week of recording) is a non-starter for media negotiations. Yet, not a shred of evidence exists that advertising is any less effective in playback than it is when broadcast “live.”
        So, being a patriotic and advertising-friendly American, I decided to do my own WMD research. Knowing that first impressions are often lasting ones, I executed a self-funded ethnographic study with a 16-year old male whose family had just installed their first DVR.  His identity is confidential, so I’ll just use the name “Jeremy Zornow.” (Any similarity between the respondent’s last name and mine is purely coincidental. Btw, my wife would be the first to tell you he was a very cute baby.)

Q: How has having a DVR changed your TV viewing?
A: “I can watch my favorite shows whenever I want. (Duh!)”      
Q: Are you watching fewer commercials?
A: “I watch more commercials now that we have a DVR. Now, when I play back programs, I don’t need to change the channel to skip commercials. I *have* to watch the commercials while I zip through them.” 
Q: Are commercials just as impactful at high speed?
A: “If you see the commercial once, you can recognize the logo or the storyline and you remember what it was about. Isn’t it more important that I watch it at high speed then not at all? What makes people think that I need to watch all 30 seconds to every time to get the message?”

        Of course, interviewing one teenager about DVR behavior isn’t legitimate research. But until someone fields an advertising effectiveness test which proves that DVR playback ratings are any less effective than live ratings, it’s just as legit as any of the unproven claims of the WMD theorists. ##
--Dave Zornow is President/TNG Research, a media research consultancy and applications development company that works with media sellers and research providers.


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