There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.
Ty Webb (Chevy Chase), Caddyshack
There are many forces in the universe, and they aren’t all encapsulated in cult comedy from the early 80s. One such force is the rising battle between consumer attention and advertisers. Whilst reports of the death of TV have been greatly exaggerated (there will undoubtedly be a few over the next few days to celebrate the arrival of the 2nd series of House of Cards), what is true is that the attention of viewers is increasingly hard to hold.
To be honest, we’ve always known that ad breaks are the time when people go to the loo, make a cup of tea or just walk around so as to avoid getting cramp, but now they have even more ways to avoid watching the ads. If they’re not on Facebook or Twitter they could just fast-forward through them on their DVR. How then to get people to pay attention?
Recently there has been a trend of owning the entire ad-break: this isn’t new, advertisers like Nike, T-Mobile & Honda have long known the benefit of creating epic ads that fill an entire break. But this new variation of that tactic is slightly different. Essentially it involves weaving one brand through an otherwise normal mix of ads.
DHL were the first company I heard of doing this. Basically their van appears in every other ad in the break that they top & tail. It’s cute, very slick advertising, but not really something I think people would necessarily watch rather than making the tea/tweeting/fast forwarding.
Channel 4 did something similar during their Comedy Gala in 2011. In this instance the brand doing the weaving wasn’t an advertiser so much as the advertisee. I’m guessing that this was a way of Channel 4 getting premium rates for the ads, which is fair as, in this instance, the allure of seeing what people like Jimmy Carr would do to an ad is probably strong enough to fight off the collective ADHD for a few minutes at least.
And then, just the other day, Lego (my favourite brand more or less) recreated an entire ad break out of bricks to promote the launch of their new movie. It includes Lego versions of Vinnie Jones and Lenny Henry. How could it get any better? Not only would people have been unlikely to want to look away during his, a whole heap of people who weren’t even there have decided to watch a video of it since.
Of course Lego are well versed in what brands need to do to gain and keep attention in the modern world, and highlighted that again here: becoming a publisher doesn’t just mean throwing men from outer space or creative native ads. Content that people want to watch can still take place in an ad break, so long as it’s not one that sets off 1.5 million kettles.