I am a huge fan of watching TV On Demand. Having a DVR is one thing, but being able to watch a show at any time, that's great stuff. As with most technologies, the real gem of On Demand used to be the minimal ad interference. As the technology became more widespread, and after the writer's strike a few years back, networks and content providers have been capitalizing on this additional opportunity to make money. Unfortunately, they forget that this is not TV advertising of old; this is new economy and this needs to be treated differently.
I have had this gripe for some time now, but it really came to a head while watching "Hell's Kitchen" on my cable's On Demand service. Fox just recently started providing their content to Comcast, with a few stipulations. One of these requirements is that fast forwarding through the program is not allowed. In other words, Fox requires Comcast to provide a captive audience for On Demand content.
Seeing that I work in advertising, I don't often get bothered by ads. I know that most people have less of a tolerance than I do, however. So what was it that got me more riled up than the bad risotto that was grating at Gordon Ramsay? Every single ad during the program was for some kind of class action lawsuit against a pharmaceutical manufacturer. There was also one for a tax lawyer to help remove liens and wage garnishments. The first thought I had was that it was 3am, due to the types of commercials we were forced to watch.
Sadly, Fox was more concerned with selling this new ad inventory than they were with providing a good user experience. Comcast has a lot of information on me because of my cable box. They even know what room in the house that box is in. Why can't Fox (and other VOD providers) take advantage of this information? Why can't Fox fill up this new ad space with relevant and targeted ads?
Earlier in the day I was watching "Cupcake Wars" and saw the best-targeted ad I have seen in a while. It was an ad for a cereal, and the setting was in a cupcake bakery. At the time I commented that the media planner should get kudos for doing such a good job. Chances are, the planner was able to make this plan with basic information like the name of the show and the concept of the ad. If there was more information available, why not use it?
I understand that movies and music and TV programming all have complex contractual rights associated with distribution and replay. This was the crux of the writer's strike, and it's a shame to see that it still isn't figured out. What is even more tragic, however, is that networks are wasting opportunities to provide their viewers and their advertisers with a good experience. Fox is taking an opportunity to connect with a captive audience and instead just trapping them in crappy ad buys.