Skipping the Ads

Research says that even DVR users have a tendency to watch the ads:

Against almost every expectation, nearly half of all people watching delayed shows are still slouching on their couches watching messages about movies, cars and beer. According to Nielsen, 46 percent of viewers 18 to 49 years old for all four networks taken together are watching the commercials during playback, up slightly from last year. Why would people pass on the opportunity to skip through to the next chunk of program content?

The most basic reason, according to Brad Adgate, the senior vice president for research at Horizon Media, a media buying firm, is that the behavior that has underpinned television since its invention still persists to a larger degree than expected.

“It’s still a passive activity,” he said.

Kevin Drum characterizes this as people being “too lazy to bother” skipping them. I suspect the real truth is that people don’t always bother to skip the ads because they’re not always watching the show. If I’ve Tivoed something I really want to watch, I’ll sit on the couch watching the show, paying attention, and skipping the ads. But if it’s time to tidy up the house, I might put on an episode of a show I’m not all that into and keep half an eye on it while unloading the dishwasher, using the dust buster, putting books back on the shelves, etc.


Part of which is to say that one problem with all studies about how new technology (DVR vs live TV, reading a newspaper online vs reading a paper newspaper) impacts people’s advertising is that I don’t think our understanding of the baseline is all that good. Of the ads people “watch,” how many really get watched. When my dad and I watched the Giants-Eagles game yesterday it’s not like we were staring blankly at the Ford 150 ads — the breaks in a football game are when you talk to your friends, get a drink, check your email, whatever.