Why we’ll learn to love TV commercials.
We all love to hate commercials during our favorite TV shows. We have to invent stuff to do during the break when entering a commercial slot. TV show producers have to invent mini cliffhangers that will make people come back after the break. What can make that monetary disease go away forever? Come with me.
Imagine a world without TV commercials. As a viewer you could decide when you wanted to take a break. You could decide when the TV show was getting too boring to watch, making it your own choice to zap away for more interesting shows. You would be able to stay in the flow that makes a really good production even more captivating. You wouldn’t need to shake your head, when getting an out-of-context cliffhanger, that leads to a boring outcome. As a viewer you would feel respected and in control of your own destiny. At last.
But I guess we have learned to live with the terrible destiny of being a TV network subscriber. TiVo at least made it fairly painless to fast-forward through the commercial prison by recording the show and seeing it 10-15 minutes delayed. But we need something better.
Flow vs On-demand
Since we now have alternatives, more and more people are migrating to on-demand, with the great side-effect of getting rid of the commercials. On-demanders are basically split into two user groups:
1. People with money that are paying up to about $45 dollars for an entire TV show season pass, being almost up-to-date (usually 1 day late though) with their favorite TV show.
2. People with less money that are willing to sacrifice being up-to-date, using expired-content services like Netflix, which are trying desperately to be up-to-date by producing their own shows, exclusively. Thumbs up for that. And Kevin Spacey rocks.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of Flow vs. On-demand, as of today:
Pros: You pay a flatrate subscription and get all the latest TV shows in real-time. And there’s still something about not having to decide what to see, but just turning on your TV set and getting surprised (relaxing).
Cons: You have to live with commercials, since they are paying the TV network’s production bills. And the TV network is deciding when to show you what and when (almost solved by TiVo).
Pros: You are almost in total control of what to see and when. And you are saying goodbye to commercials.
Cons: You have to pay a steep unit price per TV show season (or episode) or you have to live with old content that your flow friends have seen months ago, which reduces the social interaction around the shows. And you could even argue that it’s also a con that you have to choose yourself.
It’s all about survival (money). Let’s just call that a tie.
Humans crave new tools and toys
In our pursuit of (temporary) happiness, we humans are in constant search of new tools or toys to increase the value of our lives. Looking at the core purpose of commercials, it should actually be to communicate these new tools and toys, in the most intriguing way, right? And looking at the commercials out there, a lot of companies are actually doing a decent job at trying to fulfill that purpose in everything from large scale productions or genius concepts that even go viral.
But all that effort vanishes behind the “they are forcing me to see this” filter. Millions of production hours and dollars go up in smoke and noone cares or remembers.
Commercials never happened
Let’s play with a thought. And please be open-minded. Let’s say that commercials never happened. You were never forced through a commercial slot, ever. The TV networks have been running a different business model alltogether with no need to show commercials to earn a living. And then imagine that some crazy dude decides to make a new short film format (30 seconds to 2 minutes) that are talking about new awesome products and services. Would you be a bit curious? Would you want to go search for these short films yourself to get inspired?
We are actually searching for “commercials” already. We are searching websites for new products every day. And if we hadn’t been tortured by commercials on TV, we would probably be very eager to watch them on-demand as much as we could. Just a theory.
As it’s a better experience to watch your favorite TV show or movie on your big 50" TV blowing out crisp and good quality sound on your surround system, it would also be better to experience new and awesome products on that same TV. I’m not talking about replacing the on-demand online method. We could argue that people searching for products online are mostly doing it to learn more about the specifics of the products. If that’s true, an on-demand commercial service on your TV would fill a gap that hasn’t really been filled properly: The urge to be teased, inspired and … “convinced”. But on your own terms.
Imagine turning on your Apple TV (or some similar service). Like you can also access your Netflix account or your Hulu account on Apple TV, you would also be able to access our new service. Let’s just call it: Inhale (like inhaling or experiencing new products). Inhale would give you access to all the most awesome products in the world. Everything from Apple hardware to BMWs to the latest Henrik Vibskov fashion collection. The ad agencies are back in the game, playing on the on-demand horse, creating amazing experiences for you and your sofa.
Even though the Jon Ive-model (creator on a white background explaining his products with passion) is sort of worn down by a lot of companies today, let’s face it: It’s working. But it’s only working if you actually taste the passion in every single micro expression of his face. But the format is kind of interesting. And Kickstarter users are harvesting a lot of success (and money) doing that exact thing. Why not rethink how we are communicating new products in this new on-demand format? Inhale would be more guiding, more honest, more in-your-face, with the purpose of actually giving valuable product insight in a new and intriguing way. Storytelling would still work, but done in a new way that are also true to the on-demanders’ reason for being there: To learn more about the product.
Kevin Spacey’s watch
A lot of start-ups are currently working on making product placement interactive during your favorite TV shows and movies. Even though the thought of being offered to learn more about Kevin Spacey’s watch that is exposed while he’s strangling a poor dog, is kind of interesting, but I’m pretty sure that the model wouldn’t work in real life. Who wouldn’t hate a small blinking dot in the bottom right corner of your TV telling you about the watch? An optional model might work better, even though audio commentaries on DVDs never did. Let’s face it: It’s leftover thinking derived from the old model of forcing people into watching commercials. We don’t want to be disturbed. Please.
Inhale would take it a step further. Like you let Last.fm know what music you are listening to, you would let Inhale know exactly which TV-shows and movies you are watching. If Apple wouldn’t allow us to dig into their database, the Inhale team would make a companion app that listens to your TV (or your cinema experience) — like Shazam — to “register” your viewing. And then when entering Inhale and looking at a presentation of Omega’s latest watch, Inhale would tell you that Kevin Spacey is actually wearing that watch in House of Cards’ pilot episode, and you would even be able to watch the 10 second clip of him strangling the dog while wearing his Omega watch, also reminding you how awesome that guy (and show) is. It could even be a way to promote new TV shows or movies that you haven’t even seen yet (optionally). Some would argue that they wouldn’t like to be disturbed while watching their product presentation — which of course makes sense. So that info would of course be presented in an interactive way, which is out of your way, when experiencing your product.
Cinema commercials, reinvented too
Fortunately the cinemas didn’t go all the way to disturb us in the middle of our cinema experiences. How bad would that be? The next “best” thing was to insert the commercials before the movie. That has created an entire avoidance phenomenon called “We have 15 minutes before the movies starts. It’s just stupid commercials. No rush.”. But in many cases that makes us miss the awesome trailers which are of course permitted, since they are a lot more contextual: You are in a cinema, that shows movies.
Have you noticed the fact that the quality of cinema pre-commercials has fallen during the last 10 years? Again, companies are probably all realizing that commercials, shown in cinemas, are crashing too. Inhale would solve that too. We wouldn’t need commercials in cinemas anymore. You would just “register” your viewing and when you get home the Inhale AI would be slightly smarter.
Let’s save the poor ad people, while giving the product creators a new way to tell their stories. They have all been suffering enough.
But most important of all, let’s save us.