Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Old Strategy Against A New-ish Threat

A live spot for Pontiac during ABC Network’s late-night show.

When TV became a mainstream advertising medium, most of the programs were delivered live. As a result, many advertising spots were delivered live either as an integrated part of the show, or as a live demonstrations between shows. Some products, among them Timex watches and Polaroid instant cameras, made their reputations through spots that offered audiences such live demonstrations.

As marketers strive to counter the growing ability of viewers to skip or avoid spots, live sales pitches are being reconsidered for their potential stopping and staying power.

Part of the appeal of live spots for many major US networks is said to be that live TV commercials, much like the “live reads” of commercials radio stations, is their feeling of spontaneity.

Sometimes, you’re at the liberty of the talent” delivering the live spot. You give them a script, but they could also go off the script, you have to be comfortable with that”, said Kevin Collins, vice president and associate media director at Initiative in New York.

Other networks that have recently reworked the live advertising formula are MTV Networks and ABC in New York, part of the Walt Disney Company. Spike TV, also in New York, have been planning live commercials in prime time for later this year.

It’s not all rosy for advertisers though. Typically, live commercials are the result of collaborations between the writers of the network show and the agencies that work for the sponsor, meaning that the quality of the creative output is not always a certainty. A further potential stumbling block for live commercials is the higher cost compared with filmed or taped spots. That is partly because of the additional work involved and partly because live spots often run a minute or two, rather than the conventional 15 or 30 seconds pre-recorded spots.