How to make TV ads more valuable

Riga (Latvia) Radio and TV Tower, as seen from beneath it

Riga (Latvia) Radio and TV Tower
© / amoklv

I don’t usually talk about radio, but I’m inspired by Rocco Pendola’s column in The Street last Friday. In short, radio station KNDD in Seattle has issued the 2 Minute Promise, to never play more than two minutes of commercials at a time. Also, the promise includes cutting the number of commercials played per hour in half, and not firing disc jockeys to pay for the promise. Pendola wrote that a Fresno CA station followed by promising to play no more than five minutes of commercials per hour.

Pendola wrote that this makes the remaining ads more valuable because they aren’t buried 10-deep, and presumably they’ll play to more listeners. It’s a way to regain listeners who might have rejected radio for Pandora, Spotify or other streaming music.

That all reminded me of Americans For Responsible Advertising, or AFRA, a non-profit group dedicated “to make Americans aware of the extent to which they are exposed to commercial and noncommercial (e.g., political) advertising and to false, misleading, offensive, and abusive advertising in particular.” According to an AFRA report (PDF), the weeknight national news shows of NBC, CBS, and ABC average 8 minutes of commericals per half hour. If news shows run 16 minutes of ads per hour, it lines up with a Nielsen report, quoted in the Los Angeles Times, that the average commercial time on broadcast TV is over 14 minutes per hour, and on pay-TV networks, almost 16 minutes per hour.

The Times story mentioned one side-effect of so many ads. “The rise in commercials likely will concern some marketers who fear their spots are being lost in all the ad clutter,” it wrote. “Also, as more viewers embrace digital video recorders, many of those ads are being lost to the fast-forward button.”

Sounds like the same problem that radio faces, with consumers increasingly interested alternatives to an increasing load of advertisements. Imagine if broadcast TV tried a similar solution: Cut back on the number and length of ad breaks, and make sure the public hears about the change. Maybe if the change sweeps radio stations, it’ll leak through to TV.