Earlier this week, unable to locate the remote commander for the PVR, I found myself exposed, unusually, to some advertising; an experience that reminded me of Ivor Hussein.
In the dim and distant past (1995) Ivor, who was the then researcher in the then media department of the then Lowe Howard-Spink, conducted a delightfully elegant analysis of the BARB panel, in order to quantify a phenomenon we’d observed qualitatively, that of Ad Avoidance – the tendency of some people to flip channels during the commercial breaks.
Ivor’s analysis involved examining the viewing patterns of each of the c.5000 members of the panel over a five year period. For each person, he quantified the total number of minutes of commercial television watched and then established the proportion that was to the commercials themselves. He then compared each panel member’s ratio with the ratio that had actually been broadcast and was thus able to classify people in accordance with how much advertising they were avoiding.
Remember this was back in the days of (mostly) only 4 channels and incomplete remote penetration but even then, the analysis revealed that only a third of the population were not engaging in some form of avoidance behaviour. At the other end of the spectrum, a third of the population were classified as Extreme Ad Avoiders, avoiding, on average, 29% of the commercials they ought to have been exposed to.
(Incidentally, Ivor now works as a freelance consultant, so anyone wanting similarly elegant analysis should contact him here firstname.lastname@example.org.)
One would clearly expect the incidence and extent of avoidance to have multiplied considerably since 1995, with the increase in the number of channels, penetration of remotes, PVR’s, entertainment choices, clutter, etc on the one hand and decline in ad liking (see ‘Are we doomed?’ post below) on the other. But there might be another factor at work too.
EXACTLY HOW LOUD DO THE COMMERCIALS NEED TO BE?
Surely the response of any normal human being to having Michael Winner entreat them to “Calm down, dear” at 135dB, is to do the opposite and begin to frantically scrabble amongst the half empty beer cans, copies of the Sun, piled up plates, children’s toys, dogs, cats and other detritus, in search of the remote for the vital protection of their tympanic membranes. And, once they’ve done that, well they might as well check what’s on channels 6 through 965, mightn’t they.
So here’s an idea, for anyone who shares my pov. Let’s start a campaign to lower the levels at which commercials are broadcast in the hope that, as a result, more people will hear (and see) them.
Where do we start?