Randomizing advertisements

This 7.5 minute break in the middle of an IPL innings is a bad idea. The biggest problem is that everyone knows the exact length of the break, and can use it to do stuff – like cook, or clean, or crap, or fag, or maybe watch the Everton-Man U shootout. 7.5 minutes is a lot of ad time, but the problem is that absolutely no one will be watching them. So if you were a smart advertiser, you wouldn’t want to put your ad in that slot – you are better off taking an over break slot.

Now what I propose here is not applicable to cricket – at least I hope it’s not since conventionally you can’t slot ads whenever you want to (Lalit Modi thinks he can change that, though). I don’t know if this concept has already been implemented, and I’d be rather surprised if it hasn’t been. The basic idea is to randomize the length of advertising slots.

So you are watching your favourite soap and there’s a commercial break. And you go off into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. But you don’t really want to miss even a minute of the action, so you’ll go only if you know that the advertisements will go on for two minutes. Historical data tells you that the ads will last for two and a half minutes, and off you go. Now what if suddenly tomorrow there is only twenty seconds of advertisements and you end up missing a bit of the action? You curse yourself, and the soap, and the TV channel, and the TV, and Tata Sky, but you make a mental note not to go make tea during this break the next day.

Now, by randomizing the length of advertising breaks, channels can ensure that people actually watch the ads. If you don’t know if the break will last twenty seconds or two minutes, you are likely to sit glued to the TV, watching the same channel dishing out the ads. You are unlikely to go off to make tea, or to crap, or to channel surf, if you don’t know when programming might start next. You occasionally get pained – when the breaks are too long – but on the whole you end up watching most of the ads.

Yes, there is the chance that the viewer gets pained when the random length for ads that gets picked turns out to be really large. Also, if we shorten a few ad breaks, we should also lengthen a few others? Or increase the number of ad slots? Not really – is my argument.

The clincher here is that by randomizing length of ad breaks, you are increasing the TRPs for the ads! Yes your program may have high TRP but does that normally translate to ads? With this randomization procedure it does. And when this gets established, you can start charging higher for these slots. And if on an average you can charge a higher rate per second of advertisement, you can sure continue to run the program with a smaller number of ads?

It’s win all around. Customer wins because he gets more programming time than ad time. Advertiser wins because he gets more eyeballs for his ad. TV channel doesn’t lose since the loss of revenue from lesser number of ads is more than made up by the higher rate charged on the ads. In fact, by “holding” the customer, the channel ensures he continues watching this program rather than go off on a tangent while channel surfing.

Normally, I try to show situations where everyone can win by reducing the randomness in the system. This case is opposite. By introducing randomness in the system, everyone wins! I wonder if there is a fallacy here. Or maybe what I’ve written here is so obvious that everyone is implementing it and I’ve failed to notice since the only TV I see is sport (not american sport) which has fixed ad breaks.

13 thoughts on “Randomizing advertisements”

  1. They did do something intelligent today during the first Strategy timeout of the BRC CSK game. They showed ads for a few mins, then the highlights of the innings that far, and then some more ads. this way ppl dont switchoff completely for the 7.5 mins. Good idea.

    1. that’s a good funda. actually same funda about randomizing ad breaks – only thing is that in the second session – betwee nwickets and resumption people would’ve told jai

  2. Good theory. I watch a lot of non-sports channels (don’t ask me which all!) and the same 2-min break every 5-6 mins applies. So yeah, very easy to time a bathroom break, a snack, other channels and even a game of cards in that break! Randomization of ad breaks would help a lot provided I am fixated on that particular program. I can understand it applying to sports and a few saas-bahu serials, but for many of the other compulsive channel surfers like me, it just doesn’t matter. I am ok with missing a few mins of any of the stuff I am watching coz I just can’t help surfing to see if something better is coming elsewhere! Also, I know there are reruns of all shows, so I know I can catch those lost moments sometime else during the week.

    1. catching re-runs is quite painful. especially if you have to wait a couple of days to get the two minutes that you missed. and i’m talking about stuff like saas-bahu serials, reality shows, etc. here where a considerable section of hte audience doesn’t want to miss anything.

  3. It’s a good idea in theory…but problem is you are viewing it from your experience with sports where there is a scope for multiple ad breaks…whereas in your regular programmes, you currently have just two breaks and max you may be able to stretch it to 3…coz unlike in a match where you can have breaks after every over and yet not lose track of happenings, it’s close to impossible in a soap…imagine doorbell ringing, break, woman opening and finding her ex-boyfriend, break, her saying “tum”, break and so on and so forth…the viewer will just lose focus and interest…so, you as such have only 2-3 zones to play with..and you also know that the total ad-time is around 8-9 minutes (coz channels pay for shows based on airtime which is roughly 20/21 mins per slot, any change and your rate will accordingly change)…so, what you have is around 8/9 minutes which you can fit into 2/3 ad-slots as per your convenience…essentially while you can randomnize to that limited extent, i doubt if you can really achieve much by doing so.

    1. three ad breaks is more than enough. rather than having 3 breaks of 2 mins each – have breaks of 30 secs, 1.5 mins and 2.5 mins and keep flipping them around. so today you put a total of 6 mins of ads. tomorrow it’s 8 mins in total. always keep the viewer guessing. trust me, it’ll work

  4. Yes there is a problem in this theory.. Randomizing ads eventually mean there is a prior arrangement between the advertisers and TV channels. Now, the TV channels will obviously charge more for the ad slot which has the least alloted time( the appearance of this will be known to both the advertiser and the channel) as compared to the next or the nth slot(since it is randomised) which lasts for more than the least alloted time slot. Now, the advertiser may opt for the least alloted slot and be the sucker or opt for the longer slot and again settle for lesser TRP. This will eventully lead to an ‘iterative prisoners dilemma’ like situation… which is why the fixed ad band has survived…
    Your hypothesis applies only to programs/events which have what I call “high stickiness” which may differ from age group to age group…But more often than not, the “stickiness” is highest when it comes to live action. Most if not all soap operas have repeat telecasts, more than one at that…So the missed out action can be always ‘gained’ by watching the repeat(this doesn’t apply to the fanatic kyu ki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi fans, neverthless)
    Live telecasts can be divided into two types, sporting and non-sporting.
    Now, in sporting events the ad slot cannot be of variable nature because the breaks are fixed(which ensures that no one watches the ad)
    Where as in non-sporting events to an extent the idea can be implemented.However, it cannot be fully incorporated because say in an award function there is a change over time. the ads can be slotted only during these times and they more often than not are in a fixed band.

    Randomising, according to me is already in function,in India atleast, especially during cricket telecasts. More often than not we are subjected to 5 ball overs or 6 ball ones, thanks to toooo many ads in between overs.

    1. i think stickiness is quite high wrt soaps and reality shows also, and i think this model best applies to those.

      yeah bidding for hte ads will become more complicated – but again i think a lot of this media space is occupied by people who don’t know much math/economics and hence shy away from bidding, etc. i’m sure clever auctions can be designed in order to increase revenue.

  5. what about the folks on the ground? it’ll be highly disruptive and not pragmatic for them to have a random interval between every two overs.

    the only way of solving that problem in return is to have a delayed feed (so you have a buffer between live action and what you see on the tv), but that’ll pain junta.

    1. hey i suppose you didn’t read it properly. i said that the rest of this post is not related to cricket – i was talking about soaps, reality shows ,etc – none of which is shown live.

  6. While this randomizing might fetch good ROI for an channels and producers of soaps, xyz shows, it has a downside too. It would reduce the amount of ‘Quality time’ ppl spend with the family members.

  7. Hi Wimpy

    In american sports thr is a concept of time out which any manager or player can take any time. This breaks are small 30 second one. In game like American football whenever thr is a changeover from defense to offence or vice versa thr r breaks. And you dont want to miss the first move as it may be the most critical and game changing thing. So ur random theory works very well with them. Can discuss more. By the way r u playing bridge these days in gurgaon

  8. I have been following your blobs for a while .Great Work!

    very smart and interesting observation regarding the ads.
    It would be interesting once the concept of DVR gets introduced in India, where you can record and watch at leisure and forward all the ads regardless.
    Although, your argument will always hold true for real-time events such as games/award ceremonies etc.

Put Comment