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8/24/2007
11:52 AM
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The New YouTube Ads: Is Regular TV Next?

Google began showing "advertising overlays" on YouTube videos this week. I bet it won't be long before we see something similar on regular television.

Google began showing "advertising overlays" on YouTube videos this week. I bet it won't be long before we see something similar on regular television.The TV ad industry is struggling with how to deal with people like me. Our family doesn't watch a lot of television, but when we do, it's rare we'll tolerate commercials: we are members of a rapidly growing minority of households that own digital video recorders. Leichtman Research Group released a study Tuesday that found that one in five U.S. households have a DVR, up from one in thirteen households just two years ago. Heck, we've even held off watching a live baseball game for a few hours just so we can zip through TV ads. Life, and time, is too short to be held captive to things you have no interest in.

Meanwhile, with increasing annoyance I've noticed the networks getting more liberal with those little promo bugs that pop up in the bottom corner of the TV screen: lead actor in upcoming show jauntily walks onto screen, folds arms, winks, program time flashes on the screen, and bug disappears. You can't zap these critters away with the DVR controller.

It's not just the programming networks that have gone buggy with screen bugs. Our local news programmers have used them like crazy this summer to warn people to get indoors because of severe thunderstorm threats, using word streams, beeps, and highlighting the threatened counties in a graphic in the upper right corner of the screen. (Who the heck knows what their county looks like, and why are they warning people to get indoors if they're already there, watching TV?)

So anyway, for months I've been thinking that the TV advertising industry is trying to figure out how they can use these little screen bugs to get those of us commercial-zipping DVR users roped into hearing their messages. I suppose they don't want to just plop a box of cereal or laundry detergent in the corner of the screen and hope it inspires viewers to pick them up on their next shopping trip. No, they need to give the pitch, tell the story, suck you into believing you really need their products.

With the new YouTube videos, the overlap ads run on the bottom of the screen and last for about 10 seconds. If you click on one, you're brought to a larger ad like a movie trailer. Google is charging advertisers $20 for every 1,000 views of an ad.

You can bet that TV advertising industry is looking closely at this approach, and figuring out if there's something like it they could apply to television programming. And while I like the idea of being able to click on a full ad only if I choose to see it, as is the case with the YouTube ads, how many more of these bugs can we tolerate on the TV screen? It's already bordering on an infestation.

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