New York -- The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau released
a cable-favorable commercial recall study during its Cable Advertising Conference at the
Marriott Marquis hotel here last Thursday.
But its panel on new technology looked well beyond that, to
ways in which TV advertising itself will change.
The CAB's unaided-recall study -- for which Nielsen Media
Research randomly phoned nearly 5,800 adults in the first week of the February sweep --
found viewers' primetime ad-recall levels among basic-cable network viewers are
"essentially identical" to those who watch the broadcast networks.
CAB research vice president Jonathan Sims said that the
percentage of cable viewers able to correctly identify at least one commercial in the last
break they watched was virtually the same as for broadcast viewers -- 12.4 percent versus
12.9 percent, respectively. Nielsen verified the recall responses by matching them against
its Monitor Plus commercial logs.
The results dispel the generally held assumption that
basic-cable viewers aren't as attentive to commercials as broadcast-TV audiences, and that
cable viewers don't automatically zap through the multichannel spectrum to avoid
commercials, Sims observed.
The CAB, which hopes the ad community will factor those
results into its upcoming upfront budget allocations, plans to survey more than 10,000
additional consumers, probably this spring.
Just before CAB's recall presentation, the panelists
engaged in a "Socratic dialogue" on how new viewing technologies will affect
media, advertising and marketing. It looked beyond commercial effectiveness to the
survival of TV spots in their present form.
Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. senior analyst Tom Wolzien
warned that consumers with TiVo Inc. personal-video recorders and similar devices will be
able to keep programming and delete commercials -- a prospect that he said could rock the
advertising business to its foundation.
Later in an interactive poll of the attendees, Comedy
Central's Ben Stein found that few intended to purchase such products themselves.
Although Discovery Networks U.S. president Johnathan
Rodgers said he was "not worried about [TiVo]," Cox Communications Inc. vice
president of ad sales Billy Farina said that, as an operator, he was because no one really
knows what the viewers will do with such technology once "truly empowered."
Downplaying the gloomy forecasts, Zenith Media CEO Rich
Hamilton maintained that, despite the advances in technology, consumers will be slow to
change their media behavior. Except for the early adopters, "change is going to
happen gradually," he observed.
Wink Communications Inc. CEO Maggie Wilderotter and
panelists from WorldGate Communications Inc., Discovery and ESPN/ABC said they would be
able to supply more and more data on consumer prospects. But Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
senior vice president of advertising Lydia Payne said it didn't appear they could tell her
which viewers were watching which commercials, and which were prime prospects for
Knowing that many viewers interact with ESPN sports fare to
get sports statistics via Wink, she said, does not tell her whether those viewers are
heads of households or teenagers.
Wilderotter said clients can complain about companies like
Wink not having enough households, but networks and clients should be proactive and try to
drive a new business model. Already, she said, 20 advertisers have worked with Wink on
interactive advertising ideas -- each trying to answer its own set of questions.
But such consumer research can go only so far. When
ESPN/ABC Sports president of customer marketing and sales Ed Erhardt raised concerns about
privacy, WorldGate senior vice president of marketing Gerard Kunkel said he can provide
data in clusters, but not by household unless consumers permit the release of their data.