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The future of TV spots

May 22, 2009

Video is one of the most powerful tools marketers have. Video, generally in the form of TV spots, entertain, inform, inspire, and engage. TV spots have made me laugh, cry, think, and act in a way no other marketing medium really can. TV hits all the marketing senses.

If you think TV is going the way of the newspaper, it isn’t. There will always be a place for video on the web as a marketing tool because it really does work the best.

But there is a threat. It comes from the fact that people have more control over the manner in which they watch the content our ads are around. But the solution, as it has always been, is the creative.

Think about it: in the good old days, if people didn’t like the ads, the only option was to flick, or leave the room to pee. Along came TIVO and the ability to skip over ads. But the reality is, people don’t tune out ads they like.

Image representing hulu as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Then along came Hulu, Slingbox, Boxee and Blue Ray DVD players that connect to Netflix. I can watch YouTube on my iPod, and  YouTube offers classic TV shows (like Newsradio).

In the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of press about Hulu’s popularity. Maybe it was the cool ads with Seth MacFarlane and Alec Baldwin, but Hulu is reported to be the second-most-popular online video site after YouTube. Hulu lets you watch almost whatever you want, when you want, with really limited commercial interruptions.

So what have advertisers done? We repeat the same spot (or variations thereof) over and over. Some brands do the same thing on They own the show, and use it to show off the same 30 second spot over and over.

Here’s a novel idea from Nigel Hollis: Since we can no longer force people to watch something so we’d better make sure they want to watch it.

Making compelling video ads (TV or web) is more important because if ads are not compelling, people will click or zap  away.

So here’s the question: are we at a time when we should be thinking about the ad on TV and the ad on YouTube? In this case, I’m using YouTube to describe the entire category, but I could have just as easily said Hulu. YouTube doesn’t demand 30 seconds (Hulu does, but that should really change). It doesn’t demand high post-production. At the next shoot for a television commercial, are there things you should do different for the final product that will go on YouTube? Should the spot going on Hulu be 2:00, broken up in the show so people can’t wait to see what happens in the 4th module?

Have we really explored the possibilities, or are we simply grabbing a TV spot and throwing it online?

Just some thoughts.

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