First position commercials decrease viewership: Lee Hunt

MUMBAI: Lee Hunt in his session New Best Practices at the Promax/BDA India conference held in Mumbai talked about the innovative manner in which television networks keep the audience glued, programme after programme.

Elaborating on the New Best Practices prevailing in the industry today, Hunt said the need of the moment is a perfect blend of promos and commercials.



Hunt stressed on the need for preferring promos to commercials for first position during breaks. He used extensive graphics presentations to back the theory - "Commercials decrease viewership while promos actually boost it."

"Though commercials are the life blood for any network, they actually decrease the viewership when placed in the first position during a break. But on the other hand, when promos are placed in the first position, they boost the viewership. Viewers treat promos as previews and it make them stick around. Ultimately, this strategy increases sales as it successfully retains the viewership," said Hunt.

According to Hunt, airing commercials in the first position could bring down the viewership by as much as 20 per cent. "On the other hand, when promos are aired first, the viewership goes up by 3 per cent. In short, promos in last position actually decrease the viewership by 22 per cent. So here we have channels facing the difficult task of increasing its viewership by 22 per cent for the next show," he said.

Hunt remarked that for each channel, the equation depends on its TG. "So each channel has to do its own research in this field," he said.

Hunt picked up Geico's Welcome back campaign to explain the 'situ-mercial' genre of promos. 'Situ-mercial' commercials are placed according to the situation. The Geico ad has the opening scene giving the viewer the feeling that the break has ended when the guy in the ad appears on the scene saying "welcome back".

Reverse product placement was another strategy Hunt found worth talking about. Here a popular character is taken out of a show and placed in the commercial.

Hunt highlighted the importance of blurring the line between content and the break. According to him, it is the threat of DVRs that has given birth to the strategy called 'break-shifting'.

Hunt mentioned the innovations of 'commercial-free shows' and 'shows with limited commercial breaks' in his speech: "When Fox premiered the new season of the popular Nip/Tuck show which had no commercial break, the channel ensured its commercial returns by finding out a sponsor and airing a number of commercials on the show going commercial-free!"



According to Hunt, cross channel promos have become increasingly popular among the US-based television networks. He agreed that the strategy has its shortcoming also as it tends to confuse the viewer.

Hunt wound up his presentation by discussing the techniques adopted by networks to ensure that the viewership is retained for the upcoming show as well. He discussed 'freeze credits' and 'split screen' methods taken up by channels to accelerate the attention flow.

Lee Hunt works with media & entertainment companies on brand strategy, break architecture and promo training. Previously, Lee headed up the media & entertainment practice for Razorfish, the digital solutions provider that acquired his company, Lee Hunt Associates. LHA was one of the most awarded creative services groups in the U.S., launching, branding and designing more than 100 television networks.

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