A recent AP article discussed how TV content and commercials are becoming indistinguishable. Advertisers are trying to make their spots as interesting as the shows they're placed in so that today's TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO ) generation will have an incentive to stay tuned during the break.
The CW, which is owned by Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) and CBS (NYSE: CBS ) , for instance, uses a device called the "content wrap" to keep viewers from zapping the spots. I religiously record Smallville, and like a majority of those who tape the show, I have my remote at the ready so that I may blast through the Madison Avenue messages and get back to whatever evil machination Lex Luthor is trying to thrust upon poor Clark.
This past season, however, I was stopped dead in my tracks by one of those sinister content wraps -- it was part of an ad campaign for a Toyota (NYSE: TM ) Yaris, and it featured a comic-book story called Smallville Legends: Justice and Doom that played out over several weeks. I was hooked -- I had to read through the comic book as it flashed over my TV screen, and I received several impressions of the Toyota product over the course of the initiative.
This truly is ingenious, and one can expect the trend not only to continue, but explode -- as it should. Let's face it: No one wants to watch commercials, especially the run-of-the-mill, antiquated kind. Instead, the YouTube generation wants to see "clips" and/or ads that are well-integrated into a show. Earlier this year, I wrote an article about Nielsen Media Research's initiative to derive ratings data for commercial spots. Advertisers are under the gun -- they will need to concentrate on their craft more than ever before to ensure that their products are just as compelling as whatever's being offered on General Electric's (NYSE: GE ) NBC or News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS ) Fox.
Of course, viewers aren't stupid. For the most part, they'll realize when an attempt is being made to sell them something. (Hey, I knew what was happening during Smallville.) But they won't mind, as long as the commercials are fun and interesting.
If networks and advertisers work together and get people to stop fast-forwarding through spots, this will benefit all the media companies and increase the value of network inventory.
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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of General Electric. As of this writing, he was ranked 5,184 out of 29,400 rated investors in the Motley Fool CAPS system. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.