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Is Fighting TiVo a Good Idea?

  |  August 21, 2006   |  Comments

Advertisers seeking high-value customers may be better off embracing the elusive DVR audience.

Anyone who's been breathing for the last few years knows the ad biz is locked in a pitched battle with DVR users to make sure those users see the commercials advertisers have paid so dearly for. "TiVo-proofing" ads has become a hot topic, and advertisers everywhere are fiddling desperately with new formats and wacky alternative ad vehicles, such as "eggvertising," to try to capture ever-waning consumer attention.

Is fighting TiVo a good idea? According to a new Mediamark Research study, advertisers searching for high-value customers may be better off embracing the DVR rather than fighting it.

Though the study contains a plethora of interesting data, the bottom line is this: DVR users are a pretty juicy target for advertisers as compared to U.S. adults in general. DVR users are 46 percent more likely to have a college degree, 116 percent more likely to have household incomes of over $150,000, and 70 percent more likely to live in a home valued at over $500,000.

They're also voracious media consumers. Adults in DVR households are 81 percent more likely to be heavy Internet users, 40 percent more likely to be heavy newspaper readers, and 43 percent more likely to be heavy magazine readers. On the other hand, they're 23 percent less likely to be heavy TV viewers than other U.S. adult households, a finding that makes sense when you figure these folks are only watching the exact shows they want when they want. And as they use their DVRs more, they're more likely to record. There was a 23 percent increase in the mean number of programs recorded each week during the last year. Recorded programs now amount to 4 percent of all TV viewing.

With stats like these, it's obvious DVR owners are a very attractive target audience to anyone selling high-end consumer goods and services. How do you reach them? One way is to begin by looking at the numbers. This summer, TiVo launched an audience research and measurement division, which will be able to provide "second by second data and analysis on DVR viewing of advertising content." These kinds of metrics are far more valuable than typical ratings data, because it becomes possible to see exactly what people are looking at, what they're not, and for how long, then to correlate that data with the huge amount of information TiVo already has about subscribers.

Although the new Nielsen/Arbitron "Project Apollo" is pretty cool, it can't come close to the kinds of metrics TiVo can provide. This kind of measurement is pretty unique to TiVo right now, but as convergence continues advertising data like this will become more common, finally allowing us to get beyond the Wanamaker Era of traditional advertising to a world where everything's measurable and highly targetable.

The other way to reach these folks is to realize they're at the forefront of convergence. Provide content that speaks to the way they use media. Considering their broad media consumption and looking at how less likely they are to be heavy TV viewers, these high-value audiences shouldn't be looked at so much as media consumers as media assimilators, bricoleurs who range far and wide through the media landscape looking for entertainment, help, resources, and other kinds of information they can assimilate into their lives. They're not passive couch potatoes but active information seekers. They strive for control over their data streams.

Embrace these media practices by providing content on demand, providing the ability to search (such as in TiVo's new product-search function), and recognizing these folks are the ones in control (not us advertisers) and that working with them instead of against them is how to get their attention.

The future of television and media convergence is obviously coming a little faster than we thought just a few years ago. Although I have my doubts that we're all going to be watching the news on our cornflake boxes by 2020, it's obvious the early DVR adopters identified in this report are tomorrow's mainstream consumers. Figuring out now to work with them -- not fight them -- is the way to go.

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Sean Carton

Sean Carton has recently been appointed to develop the Center for Digital Communication, Commerce, and Culture at the University of Baltimore and is chief creative officer at idfive in Baltimore. He was formerly the dean of Philadelphia University's School of Design + Media and chief experience officer at Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc.

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