by: Mark Rogers
Last night’s FA Cup 4th game between Everton and Liverpool provided a powerful glimpse of how television is out of step with its audience. The game was a replay after a draw at Anfield. It was long game - not pretty - and after 90 minutes there had been no goals. The referee blew for another two periods of extra time. Another 25 mins were played like this - again without goals. It was now almost 10.30 at night and the game had been running - with intervals - since 8pm. At 27 minutes played the picture suddenly cut to a TicTac advert.
It was almost as if the controllers of channel itself had become frustrated with the lack of commercial opportunities, and had decided to cut away from the live action. The interruption lasted about 20 seconds. Suddenly the soccer was back on our screens. Everton had scored a dramatic, decisive goal. Teenager Dan Gosling had clinched the tie - it was a fairy story. But we had missed it. There was no way back for Liverpool or for the viewers. The climax of the tie had been ruined.
There will be red faces in the continuity suite at ITV this morning. The coverage has been scornful. (Note how the mainstream press is mining message boards for comments; also note how many complain of difficulties emailing ITV itself with feedback) But the mistake illustrated a powerful point. Interruptive advertising really sucks. I don’t want to leave the action to see your messages. You have the banners round the ground, you have the players shirts, you have sponsorship of the Cup itself and of the coverage by EOn. Why cut away from the action?
On shows which are not live events TV is currently suffering from its viewers habit of recording on the hard drive, and then skipping ads when they watch them. It seems clear that advertisers are going to need to get more ingenious at understanding how sponsorship, product placement and celebrity endorsement work on TV. Interruptive commercials are going to show a diminishing return, forever. Last night’s débacle was just another milestone on the way.