back to article No one watches TV, Nielsen, and you know it

Even in the modern world where there is more pay TV, there are few, if any, sources of professional video where consumers can know that they will encounter little or no advertising. Pay TV networks such as Comcast, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable in the US – and Sky and Liberty Global in Europe – all carry the advertising which …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Agreed about the linear TV watching part. But I'm missing on what causes this; namely those same commercials which people claim are so important.

    I see it happening when my gf watches a movie on TV... She continues to watch until the first commercial break, then goes off to do other stuff (toilet visit, maybe getting a cup of coffee, asking me if I really don't feel like watching, sitting behind her PC for a moment) and before you know it the movie continues while she's busy doing other stuff. Sure; she checked every now and then if the commercials are over; but with blocks which sometimes last 5 minutes, what else would you expect could happen ?

    Or what I personally do often enough: zap to another channel. Sometimes I fall into some other program and if it manages to catch my attention I'm watching that one, often flipping back eventually but occasionally also forgetting all about the original.

    And the best option: HDD recorder. The moment the commercials start you simply skip 30 seconds by the press of a button. You'll be through in no time.

    The power of advertising is majorly overhyped. I still recall a butter brand in Holland which had been bought by a bigger company who wanted to EOL it. As such they stopped advertising for the product, only to end up surprised because after half a year the market share of this product had increased instead of declined. Without any advertising what so ever.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Wish I could upvote +1000

      I've seen this so many times. I've talked about various important plot-points with friends, only to hear "oh, I switched from a commercial, I think I missed that"

      OTOH, Pirate Bay is my DVR...

    2. Anonymous Coward

      What about those of us that simply go blank.....

      Actually I gave my TV away... after the last floods... sitting at the table waist deep, eating my dinner with the house hold power supply coming in above the water line....

      "Flooding, flooding, everywhere - all over Australia, TIME FOR AN ADD BREAK, "Flooding, flooding, everywhere - all over Australia" 24 / 7 for about 2 weeks...

      How much I would have loved to have just watched some old B&W episodes of Bill and Ben the Flower Pot Men...

      But the stupidity never ends....

      The whole premis of Free to Air is a farce in the first place. Assuming I watch 20 hours of TV a week, at least in Australia, it seems to be that 10 hours of that 20, is going to be ADDS...

      Well that leaves 10 hours of documentaries and movies and usual bullshit. So assuming that I was able to get say 5 decent hours of viewing from the 20 hours, that comes to say 3 movies documentaries, that I could have downloaded or hired from the video shop, for like $6.

      The other 15 hours, that I could have spent, having sex, doing my book work, university courses etc... and or earning an income, really means that I am trading off say $6 of expense, to have 15 hours of productive time wasted, 10 of which are total shit - in the form of advertising - almost totally for things I don't want, need, or can afford.....

      And as far as actually shopping - either in person, the junk mail handles that with all the specials on at the local super markets, and other gear gets handled by the online shopping that can be done at an average of about 4 hours per week, for things that I DO need.

      So I can actually switch off the TV, hire or download the content that is revelvant and read the flyers in the letter box, and then spend the other 10 hours a week earning an income or studying courses etc..

      Or spending it with the family and friends, in the garden, the forrest, in the shed, community groups etc.. doing things TOGETHER, rather than being retards who accept being spoon fed bullshit 24/7.

      As a follow up on this, I also suffer from just going blank when adds are on... like mentally switch off...

      It's good, but can be a pain on the phone when being fed options by robots..... "If you want to do blah blah blah, press 1, If you want to do blah blah blah, press 2, etc....." These days - 5 seconds of that and I don't even hear any of it.... - I completely switch off.

  2. Danny 14

    We do the same except we press "pause" on the TV. It has a USB pen that happily PVRs, then we come back, fast forward and either catch up to the program or exit the adverts.

  3. Len Goddard
    Thumb Down

    I'm lost. The more immersive and engaging the show, the more likely any knowledgable viewer is to take action to avoid it being interrupted by advertising, like pre-recording it and skipping the ads.

    There are a staggering number of fallacious premises in this whole area. Nowadays, measuring program viewing numbers gives absolutely no indication of ad penetration, if it ever did. The only really important measure is whether sales, or at least brand recognition, goes up as a result of advertising or down as a result of not advertising. This is rarely measured because it is hard to do, and anyway in most cases the results almost certainly wouldn't show anything the advertising companies would want their customers to know.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Couldn't agree more

      An example from Down Under: Top Gear is shown here on a commercial channel. In the UK each episode runs for a full hour and often a few minutes over. The Aussie broadcaster hacks it down to 35 minutes of content and fills the other 25 minutes with commercials (usually the same ones repeated every ten minutes*).

      Given the choice of watching that or a dodgy download of the full fat BBC version it'd be a fool that chooses the former.

      * This should be added to the torture section of the Geneva Conventions.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Couldn't agree more

        Not just you guys... BBC America used to do that too, until there was a huge bitching about it, since TG fans here are rather rabid. Now they show TG *PLUS* the half hour of shitty ads, so it takes a 90 minute slot. Sigh.

      2. Esskay

        Re: Couldn't agree more

        Absolutely agree - to go off on a tangent a bit, I believe this is what helped kill Top Gear Australia -a new show, that viewers were used to seeing in a 1 hour no-ads format, crushed into a 1 hour slot on commercial TV meant that viewers flicked away from the station at the first ad break and never looked back. Particularly when the station it was broadcast on is known for pumping huge amount of ads into a 1 hour slot.

        Personally I prefer what SBS (used to) do - still have ads, but relegate them to a longer block every 30 mins. Probably doesn't have the same revenue raising prowess but I actually found myself *less* likely to switch channels, since I knew it'd be the only break (although I did use it for toilet breaks, checking the pc, making a sandwich, etc, I was always within earshot of the TV and usually in the same room. Except for the toilet breaks obviously.).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          Re: Couldn't agree more

          What? you actually get off the couch to go take a shit?

          But what about the add's your missing?

    2. Tom 13

      And even if you do remember a particular commercial because it was cute or well done,

      does the Suzy's Lemonade commercial actually help the vendor when you can't recall what product, let alone brand, it was actually intended to pitch?

  4. Mage Silver badge
    Big Brother


    Loads of people WOULD watch more TV if there was decent content.

    But UK & Irish is sinking to be like US TV cable 30 years ago, esp. US daytime TV. It's aimed at a lowest common denominator of poorly educated person comatose on the sofa watching it because it's more effort to do something else.

    Will Advertising and the chasing of "ratings" and Broadcasters concentrating on VOD of old content and hbbTV instead of actual compelling Broadcast content kill Radio & TV as we used to know it in UK when Ch4 had only started in Nov 1982? Maybe.

    Is fragmentation and niche channels killing TV & Radio? Certainly 40 to 800 Channels is far too many. TV would arguably be better if there was 10 channels. Arguably VOD and Internet TV can't economically or sensibly replace Main Popular Broadcast (or shouldn't). But Channels with 0.1% and less viewers (most of them on Satellite & Cable) are better off and better suited to Internet. That's what Internet on TVs should be used for, not more BBC/ITV/C4 content diluting those channels. They need to concentrate on decent in house content production. Contracting out and Purchasing In "foreign" off the shelf stuff destroys our culture and the Ethos & Character of the broadcasters.

    1. TonyHoyle

      Re: Content

      Very little of what's broadcast is time sensitive.. news and sport, and maybe eurovision. Linear TV is expensive to produce (requires satellites, or terrestrial broadcast networks), requires all sorts of scheduling (one programme at a time, fixed slots of 30/45/60 minutes) and ends up being pretty inconvenient a lot of the time.. so everyone uses DVRs, and skips the ads. That can replaced completely with internet VOD and live streaming (something that I think Sky are realising with their 'Now TV' idea.. if that actually happens).

      Advertisers are going to have to be smarter. Arguably that boat has already sailed - when I first got Tivo 10 years ago they pretty much lost that route to my eyeballs. 10 years later everyone has DVRs of some sort and the number of ads actually viewed must be a tiny fraction of what it was.

      These days I view TV entirely via Roku and iplayer, so never see itv/c4/c5 programmes (or their adverts). Plex fills in the gaps - again no adverts. In fact thinking about it the only ads I see these days are on billboards - advertisers have completely lost contact with the likes of me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Content

        I often use 4od, Iplayer and channel5online. both the commercial channels have un-skipable commercials and I find that I am more likely to pay attention than when on tv since I am going to be watching when I want to watch.

        so advertising is better for online media I think.

        1. A J Stiles

          Re: Content

          Last time I ripped a 4oD stream using rtmpdump, there were no adverts in it! Looks as though the Flash client is inserting advertisements from a separate, unencrypted stream (I guess they don't mind you leeching on the adverts). At any rate, I was able just to use ffmpeg to convert the flv to MPEG2 ready for burning to DVD.

          Sherlock, because seeing if it is still like this might be a three-pipe problem.

  5. Joerg

    Everyone watches tv .. the problem is with fake stats !

    Like Nielsen and other similar stats companies worldwide. They use a tiny sample that no interpolation/extrapolation algorithm could ever manage to improve resolution of. Nielsen in the US uses a 0.04% sample size of the real population and the numbers given by their families sample are not even true but tampered with at the source. Then they manage to tamper with even more to please highest paying tv networks managers at will...

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: Everyone watches tv .. the problem is with fake stats !

      There's one right there. I haven't had a TV for 40 years now. I tend to get together with others who are the same, and I can tell you that there are lots of us in this parallel universe. I suspect that we are invisible to those on the other side.

    2. Chris Miller

      Re: Everyone watches tv .. the problem is with fake stats !

      You might want to read up on stratified sampling before posting any more rubbish. That sample size is an order of magnitude bigger than the exit polls that can predict election results to (usually) within a fraction of a %.

      And while it's not impossible that Nielsen would take a well-established, highly profitable business model and risk throwing it all away for a back-hander - I think it's rather unlikely.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: Everyone watches tv .. the problem is with fake stats !

      Our household actually was selected as a Nielsen house quite some time ago. No DVRs at the time, but we had VCRs attached to every tv in the house. No books to fill out, no written surveys, just a phone line back to Nielsen HQ that reported the data: what the channel was, whether it was TV or VCR. The only way for us to manipulate the stats was to watch a program. I was actually pretty happy about it, because the shows we tend to watch were always getting canceled. Unfortunately we moved, and when we moved, the reporting equipment didn't go with us to the new place. Nielsen was very strict with their rules for the survey and since we were no longer in the region they were sampling, we were removed from the survey.

  6. Wibble

    Bit like AdBlock for websites

    Now it's so easy to record a programme and watch it when I have time, I rarely do adverts.

    Having said that, if I do watch live telly, when I'm flipping channels when the adverts begin, I've noticed that all channels seem to do adverts at the same time!

    1. AdamWill

      Re: Bit like AdBlock for websites

      Well, yeah. Television is a very convention-bound format. It's almost always broken up into blocks of one hour or half an hour in length, and the timing of commercials within those blocks is also established by convention. Any program which wants to time things differently has to actively argue for it.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: When channels show ads

      I've noticed that all channels seem to do adverts at the same time

      Ever since there has been commercial television this has been known as "the chicken race": the first channel to launch the break is going to lose the greatest number of viewers. This behaviour is well-understood and measurable unlike most of what the article covers.

  7. Herby

    The only thing worth measuring...

    Is the effectiveness of the adverts. If you make unique adverts (the late night ones usually have a different telephone number or some such) one can judge the penetration of what you are offering. To a company that DOES advertising this is the only thing that really counts. The program content is secondary. Unfortunately the rating people concentrate on the program content, and assume that the commercials will be watched.

    Thankfully on the Internet, you have 'click-thru' to see what works, and charge appropriately.

    Bottom Line: If you are selling ad space, measure THAT.

    p.s. I'm over 60 and actually have a DVR. My wife uses it to skip over commercials and repeat program content (between yelling at the politics on the TV. For me, I just do things like bring up this page during commercials. Go figure!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    PVR and fast forward, never watch in real time

    What ads?

    1. Arctic fox

      Re: "What ads?"

      I think that you have just summed up what is terrifying the entire industry. They are beginning to believe that almost nobody is watching those ads. If that is indeed the case then a more classic example of the emperor's lack of any connection to sartorial reality would be hard to find.

  9. Keith 72

    Advert Free TV

    I subscribe to BT Vision because their on demand services are ad free. I will only pay for a service that is ad free, which is the reason I have never subscribed to Sky.

    I always PVR TV as I hate watching ads. It's a shame really, as many of them are very entertaining. I guess the worst thing about ads is their repetition.

    But ad breaks do serve a useful purpose, they are usually at the end of a "chapter" so as not to be too jarring and they give folk left in the room some entertainment whilst others do the ubiquitous TV watching necessities of visiting the toilet, putting the kettle on, getting another beer, etc. Often we fast forward ads and then hit pause until we're all back in the room. Perhaps someday these pauses will get auto-filled with ads.

    Maybe they should have skippable VOD ads with YouTube like ratings - which will give the content provider data on viewing figures and possibly reward viewers by giving them options about how often they see different ads and letting them never see the bad ones ever again.

    1. DiViDeD

      Re: Advert Free TV

      "ad breaks do serve a useful purpose, they are usually at the end of a "chapter" so as not to be too jarring"

      Oh how I wish! In Oz, commercials (especially on Channels 7 & 9) can turn up anywhere; in the middle of a sentence, halfway through a car chase, wherever.

      Add to that the tendency of both channels to give you a 5 or 10 minute Sports or News Update (complete with commercials either side, of course), and any hope of the viewer retaining that sense of involvement the director has worked so hard to create is out the window.

      Thank doG for PVR and IsoHunt!

    2. Matthew 3

      Re: Advert Free TV

      I watched the recent comedy gala on Channel 4 where Jimmy & Alan Carr* had remade or edited some of the adverts. This was quite possibly the first time in a decade where I'd actively sat through the ads just to see what comic potential those two had found in them.

      There are still plenty of good ads made but to keep us involved they must be clever and amusing. I'm sure that those wonderful'refreshes the parts' Heinekin and 'Happiness is...' Hamlet ads still stir a few memories.

      *this was a few months ago before Jimmy became the pariah poster boy for tax evasion.

  10. A J Stiles

    People watch the programmes, not the adverts

    Has it escaped their notice that audiences are watching the shows, then tweeting about them during the breaks instead of watching the adverts? Measuring the success of advertisements by the number of people watching the programmes is is akin to measuring the success of pest control by the amount of cheese taken from mousetraps, as opposed to by the number of mice caught.

    With Sky Plus, I watch till the first advert break; then I hit pause and make a brew, take a leak, feed the cat, load up the washing machine, skin up, check Twitter, make a sandwich or whatever. By which time the show has restarted, and I need only fast-forward through the adverts. You can even get tellies nowadays that accept a USB stick or SD card and offer the same pause, rewind and fast-forward functionality on the basic Freeview channels.

    But even before the advent of such technological marvels, it was common practice to leave the room for advert breaks.

    1. Crisp

      Re: People watch the programmes, not the adverts

      Actually, if I'm at a friends house and they have a TV, I love watching the adverts.

      They never make me buy anything, but I'm always interested to see the line of bullshit made up by advertisers.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Biased samples

    The Nielson sample set has a built-in bias against:

    People who insist upon their privacy (e.g.: I was a Nielson "family" several times, happily reporting what I watched to help the shows I like out. Then Nielson wanted me to report on what I bought, where I shopped, etc. Guess what: I am no longer a Nielson family)

    People who screen their calls and don't answer unknown numbers.

    People who toss out junk mail.

    Granted, this may be like the 419 scammers who make no effort to be subtle, so that they screen out people who are not clueless - it may be that Nielson doesn't care about the bias because it selects against people who don't "consume" advertising anyway.

    The fundamental flaw in the whole advertising system is that advertisers cannot wrap their tiny little minds around the fact that they are unwanted and uninvited guests at the party: we, the viewers, allow the program into our lives, and the program says "Yeah, is it OK if these ads come to? - they're my ride, man." We grudgingly allow the ads in, and the ads proceed to be loud and obnoxious, eat all the party mix, drink all the booze, throw up on the floor, insult everybody, and generally ruin the party.

    1. MacGyver

      Re: Biased samples

      I was thinking the same thing. I often wondered why "Reality" shows are so pervasive now, and you pretty much summed it up, Nielson families that follow those rules are stupid. Obviously not you, because you stopped, but those that continue clearly are different from the average person.

      It's sad too, because stupid people tend to watch all manner of programming not suitable for dogs. Great shows like Firefly, Pushing Daisies, Profit, Middle Man, even Veronica Mars will always fail against shows like "Dancing with the network Has-beens", "Ouch, my balls!", or "Who wants to be made fun of for money" in the eyes of a moron that can't follow a plot line, let alone one split by a commercial. The networks love it because it's a lot cheaper to make an episode of "Things on Fire!" than it is to make a scripted show.

      We need a huge company like Google to create an IPTV service that they control the content of. Something along the lines of On-demand, commercial-free, $20 a month, customer voted shows. If they had 500 million users world-wide that would be 10 billion dollars a month to make or buy anything it's customers could ever want, commercial free, and because they are buying/making the content, there would be no reason for region restrictions. And because there would be no TV commercials, soap and soda companies' advertizing budgets could now go towards funding failing newspapers and magazines. With that kind of money a month, there is no reason they couldn't use some of it to throw some new fiber in the ground here or there.

      We're waiting Google.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Product placement

    That's why product placement keeps growing.

    It's integrated, though barely disguised, and it's short so it's hard to skip. Of course, there are limitations on what you can sell that way, so cars and computers feature prominently.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: Product placement

      It's not so much that it's short as much as it involves one or more key characters in that part of the show. You can't ignore the product placement without ignoring the character--and as a result, missing the plot. Even some video games have gotten into the act. Not fictional products that are in there for environment or for laughs, but ads for real-life products. The worst ones are the ones where you get nailed if you ignore them because they're actually obstacles or even traps.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Product placement

        I've always quite liked decent product placement, character drinks a particular brand of cola, drives a certain kind of car, uses a certain kind of laptop. Subconsciously I'm going "Hey I drink that brand of cola, I can relate to this guy, and I quite like his car... good taste in laptops, hey was that that brand of that thing over there, I have that!" However it shouldn't be obvious, he shouldn't be drinking a can of cola every 5 minutes going "jee this cola tastes great... you should get some" *wink wink*

        Where as when the ads are on it's channel surfing time! The numbers of times I've missed half a show due to that.

        As to the games things, if it's a modern day setting it's fine again, but then most games where it would work the companies likely wouldn't be too keen (like GTA) though I'm not actually sure they can stop you if you want to include it...

        1. TonyHoyle

          Re: Product placement

          As I watch films these days I play 'spot the sponsor' - If you see a brand in a film it's never there by accident.. they paid for it. No matter how small a part it plays.

          Sometimes it's comical - eg. when a Virgin Airlines plane slowly taxied past the camera for about 30 seconds (a bond film IIRC). Other times it's more subtle.. a particular brand of phone, or watch, being used.

          1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

            Re: Product placement

            The classic I always remember is that scene from The Matrix with a... Motorola was it? Floating serenely in the breeze right in front of the camera for nearly 15 seconds before suddenly whipping away into the distance. Similarly in the H2G2 film with that Nokia buzzing away in space right before Journey of the Sorcerer began to play.

            There's product placement, and then there's that. You have to laugh...

            1. Steven Roper
              Thumb Up

              @ Graham Dawson Re: Product placement

              My personal favourite piece of product placement is in Total Recall, when Richter and his goons are tracking down Arnie through the subway, on the Johnnycab and into the abandoned factory. Arnie has a bug in his head which broadcasts his location, and the portable tracking monitor used by Richter's sidekick to follow it is very clearly made by Casio.

              I always thought that was a funny piece of product placement, as if Casio wanted be known for making Big-Brotherish spying and tracking gadgets at a time when they were more famous for watches, calculators and portable synthesisers. That such a gadget was ostensibly made and marketed by a mass-market consumer-electronics company like Casio, instead of a defence contractor for example, suggested to me that the use of such devices was widespread in the era depicted in the movie, and I imagined that there might be hundreds of people in the crowds walking around with Casio spy-bugs up their noses.

              Which leads me to the humourous aspect of this particular piece of product placment: that Casio was depicted as the manufacturer of tracking gadgets of such utter cheap-crappiness that they could be defeated by simply wrapping a wet towel around your head!

  13. Bernard

    This article is mental

    The author must be sick!

  14. Don Jefe


    As much as TV advertising annoys me it is truly effective, especially for new products or sales.

    I was involved at a major retailer several years ago & you could hear the ad guys cheer when one day after running a new commercial they saw double digit increases in sales and single digit increases of other stuff in the store. It happened all the time, generating millions a week in targeted sales. Kinda hard to argue with that kind of performance.

    1. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: Measuring

      @Don Jefe

      Do your former colleagues still find themselves cheering?

      The times are achangin'

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Measuring

        Yes, I reckon they do. Single line phone, Internet and cable services have drastically increased the value of adverts (at least in the States). The El Reg readership is not a good sample of the average Joe. I block most online ads and I haven't had cable TV in more than a decade. I expect many of this site's readers are the same.

        It is sad that running a 20 second spot on TV for a new Palmolive dish soap that has Oil of Olay mixed in can generate quarterly sales of millions of dollars just by itself, but that's the world we live in. It's not getting better for the general public, they're just buying more brand name "stuff" instead of cars and houses now. Oh well: "Lift a pint" was the smartest thing I've heard on here in a while.

  15. Christian Berger

    There was a simple solution in Germany

    When the second TV channel in Germany came on, it had commercials during a few hours of the day. In order to get people to watch them. They put little animated clips in between the commercials. Those were about some little creatures called the "Mainzelmännchen" and gained a cult following.

    This concept was used by many stations. Here's an example of the Bavarian regional window of the first channel, "Das Erste".

    Another way was to make a little game. If you send in the brands advertised in the right order you have the chance of winning a price.

    Or one could go the British way of simply making _decent_ television and _decent_ commercials. If you complain about British television, I dare you to watch German television for a week!

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: There was a simple solution in Germany

      German TV much better than Italian TV though.

      Unless you like inane game shows.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: There was a simple solution in Germany

        Mexican game shows are the best though. I have no idea why that's entertainment but I love it! Japanese shows were good for a while but they've become too Westernized. The Mexicans just don't give a toss though. Insanity, loud noises and busty women. Good TV!

  16. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Simple strategy

    Buy some advertising, then look for an increase in sales. If the sales do not increase, you are spending money on the wrong adverts.

    For TV adverts to stand a chance, the brief flicker of advert that appears before I press step forward again must be really interesting. The advert has to explain what is being sold, where and for how much without any sound. Finally the really difficult bit - sell a product that I want to buy.

    1. Christian Berger

      Re: Simple strategy

      Ohh that's already been tried. It's called Blipvert. However it can cause an overload of the neural system.

      1. Andrew Moore

        Re: Simple strategy

        Cool, a Max Headroom ref.

  17. tekgun

    "Adverts are not only here to stay, but they are proliferating, and form a bedrock of revenue that prevents consumers from bearing the full financial cost of content creation."

    Surely this should read "and form a bedrock of revenue that maximises profit from the consumer."

    Or else the BBC are doing it wrong, not that I suffer TV adverts personally. There is more than adequate technology available to avoid them when watching the few programs I want to see.

  18. Naughtyhorse


    I have often ranted as to the total bollocks basis for advertising on this site and inevitably get downvoted by (presumably) ad industry based shills.

    All advertising is bollocks. i have _never_ clicked a net ad. and do not base my meat-space purchasing decisions on how cute the kitten/puppy/small child/meerekat are in the ad.

    so i guess my question is, where are all the advertising <ahem> professionals now?

    (id like to thing they were running round in circles exclaiming that the emperor is naked, but some how i doubt it)

    1. AdamWill

      Re: Curious...

      Well, no, they're not, because your points are weak and well-known.

      So you, personally, have never clicked an ad? Good for you. What does that prove? Advertisers don't need _everyone_ to click an ad. They just need some people to click them. Your assertion that you never have really doesn't mean anything, unless it can someone be proven that, because you never click an ad, no-one anywhere ever clicked an ad.

      It is also a common thing for an anti-advertising person to avow that they 'do not base my meat-space purchasing decisions on how cute the kitten/puppy/small child/meerekat are in the ad'. The advertising industry's response to this is twofold.

      1) How do you know? You say you don't, but why should anyone trust you? People are spectacularly poor reporters both of the facts of their own actions and the motivations behind them. You _say_ you don't base purchasing decisions on advertising. You may truly believe this to be the case. Neither of those things mean it actually _is_ the case. The advertising industry is of the general opinion that people certainly do base purchasing decisions on ads, then either lie to themselves about it or simply don't notice.

      2) Advertising isn't as simple a system as 'we show you a picture of product, you go out and buy product'. Advertisers know this. They haven't worked on that basis for decades, centuries. Their position is that advertising works on less obvious levels. There are many of these.

      The classic illustration of this is to ask someone, quick, to name a company in a field they don't _usually_ think about or buy products in. The answer they come up with is very likely to be determined by advertising. Say, mobile phone recycling; it's not something you do every day. Probably most people have never done it. But when some people finally decide they _are_ going to get rid of their cellphone and try and get some money for it, they're overwhelmingly going to pick one of the companies that advertises on TV all the damn time. Why? Because they've heard of the company. Even if the ad was crap, it served it's purpose - to announce the existence of the company. Especially when what the company is selling is a straightforward product or service which isn't likely to differ much between vendors, advertising can be crucial, because the advertised-to don't have any reason to carefully research the companies available and pick the 'best' one. This means they have no incentive to even discover companies that don't advertise. They're just going to pick the first one they remember, which is likely one they've seen advertised.

      Another purpose, say you really like marmite. You eat it all the time. Then for whatever reason you start putting jam on your toast instead. Then a few months later you see a commercial for marmite. You may well start eating marmite on your toast a bit more often. The ad hasn't sold you on something you didn't have any previous experience with; you already knew you liked marmite. But it gives you a little reminder of its existence.

      There's dozens of these. Hell, there's hundreds of books full of discussions of the effectiveness or otherwise of advertising. There's all sorts of interesting debates to be had on the topic. But you have to do a lot better than 'I never pay any attention to ads, therefore ads are ineffective'. That argument isn't even worth the price of admission.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ AdamWill Re: Curious...

        Oh, AdamWill, thank you thank you thank you for existing to write that post. If there's one thing I'm sick of on this site - and there is - it's the sactimonious gits saying things like, "what stupid people don't build their own mail servers? I have for years so I don't see how they can be so dumb!", or, "Company A is selling yachts? Well, I'm not stupid enough to buy a yacht, so the people who run Company A are real morons! Think people want to buy -yachts-! Haha! Yachts can't even get good bandwitdth! What simpletons, not like me. There are a lot of -other- things I also think are stupid and that I don't like. Here, I'll list them; each serves to emphasize my intelligence and general superiority."


      2. jake Silver badge

        This is going to be fun :-) (was: Re: Curious...)

        I take it you're a marketer, AdamWill? Well, guess what. I'm a consumer. And I sell products and services, *without* resorting to in-your-face advertising. In fact, I have never, in my entire life, purchased the "services" of an advertising "expert" ... with the one exception of having most of my businesses listed in $TELCO'sBigBookO'Numbers[tm]. On to your points:

        "So you, personally, have never clicked an ad?"

        No. I have not. I haven't even seen a clickable ad in about a decade.

        "Good for you. What does that prove?"

        Doesn't prove anything. It's just a fact.

        "Advertisers don't need _everyone_ to click an ad. They just need some people to click them."

        Sound's like a 419/LadsFromLagos justification, to me ...

        "Your assertion that you never have really doesn't mean anything, unless it can someone be proven that, because you never click an ad, no-one anywhere ever clicked an ad."

        Your grasp of logic is somewhat faulty. I was speaking for me, nobody else.

        "It is also a common thing for an anti-advertising person to avow that they 'do not base my meat-space purchasing decisions on how cute the kitten/puppy/small child/meerekat are in the ad'."

        I do not. I don't base any purchasing decisions on anything that I see in the media when I let my guard down ... because I'm fully aware that such advertising is full of mistruths & misdirection

        "The advertising industry's response to this is twofold."

        That should be a colon, not a full stop (period, to us Yanks).

        "1) How do you know?

        "You say you don't, but why should anyone trust you?"

        Those around me know I don't view adverts on purpose.

        "People are spectacularly poor reporters both of the facts of their own actions and the motivations behind them. You _say_ you don't base purchasing decisions on advertising. You may truly believe this to be the case. Neither of those things mean it actually _is_ the case."

        Keep telling yourself that. No matter how many times you say it, it doesn't make it true.

        "The advertising industry is of the general opinion that people certainly do base purchasing decisions on ads, then either lie to themselves about it or simply don't notice."

        The advertising industry is deluded. People don't. Sheeple might ...

        "The classic illustration of this is to ask someone, quick, to name a company in a field they don't _usually_ think about or buy products in. The answer they come up with is very likely to be determined by advertising."

        Uh ... I'm not planning on purchasing from said company to begin with (your premise, remember?). Who cares what company I come up with? What's the point? Your example (cellphone recycle) is twaddle, and you know it.

        "Especially when what the company is selling is a straightforward product or service which isn't likely to differ much between vendors, advertising can be crucial, because the advertised-to don't have any reason to carefully research the companies available and pick the 'best' one. This means they have no incentive to even discover companies that don't advertise. They're just going to pick the first one they remember, which is likely one they've seen advertised."

        And now we get down to the nitty gritty ... You are admitting that advertisers are aiming at the lowest common denominator. Frankly, these people aren't going to go with advertised products, they are going to go with the lowest cost item in any given range ... "Ol' Roy" dog chow comes to mind. I've never seen it advertised, anywhere, but it flies off the shelves at WalMart ... Similar, but advertised, products don't sell nearly as well. Why not? Because the cost of the advertising is added to the total cost of the product. "Ol'Roy" is cheaper. The sheeple go on cost at the store, not advertising.

        "Another purpose, say you really like marmite. You eat it all the time. Then for whatever reason you start putting jam on your toast instead. Then a few months later you see a commercial for marmite. You may well start eating marmite on your toast a bit more often. The ad hasn't sold you on something you didn't have any previous experience with; you already knew you liked marmite. But it gives you a little reminder of its existence."

        But I always have marmite & jam in my larder ... When I want one or the other, I select one. Don't you keep a wide selection of breakfast food varietals on hand, for use as mood strikes? If so, your point is moot. If not, why not? They keep virtually forever under the right conditions, and are cheap to restock.

        "There's dozens of these. Hell, there's hundreds of books full of discussions of the effectiveness or otherwise of advertising."

        That sell mostly to those with the marketing mindset. Not the real world.

        "There's all sorts of interesting debates to be had on the topic."

        I haven't seen any yet. Marketers are shysters of the first water.

        "But you have to do a lot better than 'I never pay any attention to ads, therefore ads are ineffective'. That argument isn't even worth the price of admission."

        How about "ads don't work with humans, but they might work with sheeple"? Stop pussy-footing around. Admit it. Marketers are in the business of attempting to separate fools from their money. You lot are just as bad as Wall Street, Lawyers, and Politicians.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: This is going to be fun :-) (was: Curious...)

          Just for reference, see above multiple derogatory uses of 'sheeple' as Exhibit A for my assertion of bald-faced arrogance in my first reply.

          And just one counterpoint to the predecing post - if relying on some percentage of viewers to take some action, rather than requiring or expecting all of them to do so, is 'like a 419 scam', then -almost everything- is: Books - only a few people need buy them, not all; Software - surely the Apache developers don't expect -everyone- to use their software, but this doesn't put them on the same level as PRINCE LUBAPIN BINDOVEH; even you, presumably, posted your reply with the expectation that despite that only a few of the people who scrolled by would read t, that it was still worth posting.

          Funny thing; the Reg forums are really a good thing for me: even though I generally agree with the dim view of advertising expressed here, the arrogant and obnoxious manner with which that view is promoted is so odius that I start to see things from the perspective of the people I don't like.

          Excepting the RIAA. It'll be a cold day in hell before I empathise with those bastards.

          1. jake Silver badge

            So, David W. (was: Re: This is going to be fun :-) (was: Curious...))

            What's wrong with the term "sheeple"? There is a reason that the early christian church referred to their congregations as "flocks" and their pastors as "shepherds" ... Modern marketards are just using the same flock-like behavior to sell idiots on crap products.

            It's not the idea of idiots buying into the flock's perception of "gotta have that" that is the issue (idiots are idiots, and will follow the flock; see iFads). Rather, it's the folks manipulating said idiots into purchasing said crap that are the problem. All that energy could be better spent elsewhere ... See the hell-hole that is the current US government's so-called "legislature" ... From my perspective, it's no better than frat-boys v.s. jocks ...and just as daft.

            I have no answers ... I'm not that good. But I do see problems.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: So, David W. (was: This is going to be fun :-) (was: Curious...))

              While it might be possible to construct an etymological defense of the term 'sheeple', I find it difficult to believe that its predominate real-world use is not nearly-universally attended by sneering disdain.

              People who use the term, I suspect, like to (or pretend to) justify themselves by saying they really only dislike those doing the denying / tricking / scamming / oppressing, but when it's time to assign blame, the culprit is almost never the rapacity of the perpetrators, but almost always the stupidity of the victims.

              For instance, if we isolate some words from your post, referring to the sheeple we have:


              "buying into"

              "perception of gotta have that"







              ...and you refer to the perpetrators:

              "folks manipulating"

              "the problem"

              Basically, the people being brainwashed are referred to as idiots four times; the people who you say are the 'real problem' are politely referred to as 'folks'.

              And, of course, at the end you come right out and say that the victims and the perps are equally at fault - the perps for perpetrating, and the victims, presumably, for stupidly allowing themselves to be perpetrated upon.

              So, yeah, when the guy defending the term 'sheeple' (from my assertion that it's intrinsically derogatory) uses these arguments, I become a bit more confident in my position.

              1. jake Silver badge

                @David W. (was: Re: So, David W. (was: This is going to be fun :-) (was: Curious...)))

                "but when it's time to assign blame"

                Not blaming anyone, just observing reality.

                "the culprit is almost never the rapacity of the perpetrators"

                Predators, not perpetrators. They are in the wrong.

                "but almost always the stupidity of the victims."

                And prey. Not stupid, but willfully, intentionally, and stubbornly ignorant ... and willing to follow the latest fad, regardless of cost, because "all their mates are doing it". Ever watch a Judas Goat march flock after flock of lambs to slaughter? I have a Judas Goat. It ain't pretty. But I have lamb meat in my freezer, my smoker, on salt, and for sale at the local market & farmers markets, and at a few select local restaurants.

                People aren't sheep ... but most sure as hell act like sheep when it comes to "shiny".

            2. AdamWill

              Re: So, David W. (was: This is going to be fun :-) (was: Curious...))

              Oh, and by invoking 'sheeple' you incidentally destroy your own argument by admitting it's actually completely wrong. Your point becomes 'some people aren't affected by advertising'. You denominate the people who aren't affected by advertising as 'people' and those who are as 'sheeple', clearly in an attempt to denigrate them, but it doesn't really _matter_. You have effectively admitted that some people certainly are affected by advertising, which is what you started out by denying. You can say that those people are idiots and you're not one of them, if it makes you feel good, but it doesn't improve the quality of your debating, which is terrible. We might go on to debate whether it's really true that only dumb people are affected by advertising, but even if it is true, the main point is still conceded by you: advertising does work. Even if it only works on dumb people, why would advertisers care? Dumb people have money.

              1. jake Silver badge

                @AdamWill (was: Re: So, David W. (was: This is going to be fun :-) (was: Curious...)))

                To me, "sheeple" are flock of humans who clearly don't think about what they are getting into. It's a handle. They are humans, but the word is descriptive of their behavior. Have issues with this concept? Why, exactly? Does it sting? Think about it.

                "Even if it only works on dumb people, why would advertisers care?"

                So you, speaking as a tool of Fedora, are admitting that separating fools from their money is A-OK, according to the folks in charge of Fedora? Interesting ... ::mental note:: Stick with Slackware.

                "Dumb people have money."

                So do people who can talk. Assuming you mean ignorant people, only if they inherited it ... and even then, it's not OK to steal it from them.

                1. AdamWill

                  Re: @AdamWill (was: So, David W. (was: This is going to be fun :-) (was: Curious...)))

                  I'm speaking as a commenter on a Reg thread. It was _your_ choice to bring my occupation into the thread, not mine. You assumed I was a marketer, I stated that I wasn't, and you are now trying out some frankly bizarre methods of turning this mistake on your part into some kind of 'win'. It's kind of sad to watch, really.

                  1. jake Silver badge

                    Re: @AdamWill (was: So, David W. (was: This is going to be fun :-) (was: Curious...)))

                    "I'm speaking as a commenter on a Reg thread."

                    Bully for you. So am I.

                    "It was _your_ choice to bring my occupation into the thread, not mine.

                    Uh ... no. You volunteered your exact occupation.

                    "You assumed I was a marketer"

                    I did.

                    "I stated that I wasn't"

                    Reading what you wrote, you are a tool of the Fedora marketing department. You can protest all you like, but it doesn't change reality.

                    "and you are now trying out some frankly bizarre methods of turning this mistake on your part into some kind of 'win'."

                    I don't do "win" in this forum. I do reality. Even if it is a Red Top.

                    "It's kind of sad to watch, really."

                    I know. Projection can be an ugly thing.

                    1. AdamWill

                      Re: @AdamWill (was: So, David W. (was: This is going to be fun :-) (was: Curious...)))

                      I'm going to stop talking to you now as you're clearly off your rocker, but as a parting point: you don't win arguments by systematically trying to deny everything the other party says, even when you have absolutely no standing to do so. I know what my job is. You clearly don't. You're not getting anywhere by yelling, ever more loudly, that you know what my job really is and I'm just a mug who doesn't know what he's doing. You just look absurd.

                      When you make a wrong assumption and the other person corrects you, the appropriate course of action is to acknowledge your mistake and continue with the debate, not to keep denying ever more shrilly that you ever got anything wrong. Your initial mistaken assumption wasn't at all significant. You could have gracefully abandoned it and still ontinued to argue your position that advertising is ineffective. Instead you've gone completely off the rails because you're unwilling to accept that you could _possibly_ have been wrong - that anyone who isn't actually involved in marketing could possibly argue the idea that marketing might in fact be effective. That's a pretty stupid position to get stuck in.

                      1. Anonymous Coward
                        Anonymous Coward

                        Re: @AdamWill (was: So, David W. (was: This is going to be fun :-) (was: Curious...)))

                        It's a shame that up votes are limited to 1 per account and I don't have an army of sock puppet accounts to use on my behalf

        2. AdamWill

          Re: This is going to be fun :-) (was: Curious...)

          "I take it you're a marketer, AdamWill?"

          I can't stop you taking whatever you like, but your assumption is incorrect. I'm the Fedora QA community manager. I also take an interest in how things work, including things I'm not directly involved in.

          1. jake Silver badge

            @AdamWill (was: Re: This is going to be fun :-) (was: Curious...))

            You think "Fedora QA Community Manager" isn't a tool of Fedora Marketing?

            I feel ever so sorry for you.

            1. AdamWill

              Re: @AdamWill (was: This is going to be fun :-) (was: Curious...))

              Unless you count spending seventeen hour days running installation validation tests as 'marketing', no, no it isn't.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: @AdamWill (was: This is going to be fun :-) (was: Curious...))

                "Unless you count spending seventeen hour days running installation validation tests as 'marketing', no, no it isn't."

                That's not community management, Adam. That's buried (hiding?) in the lab, with little or no contact with other humans. Get out more. You'll be happier.

  19. bexley

    sheilas wheels

    The single most damaging thing to advertising is sheilas wheels.

    That literally tipped me over the edge.

    There are pretty strict ofcom rules to follow regarding audio levels. Your not allowed to exceed 7ppm. So what they do is set the program audio at about 5ppm and then ensure that the ads blast out at the full 7ppm, catching your attention.

    I have not owned a TV for years now and only watch torrents or streams of a few programs like "The Walking Dead".

    At the back of my mind i do worry that they might not make it any more if everyone just downloads it, but they only seem to pay attention to viewing figures in the US so it does not seem to matter how you watch it elsewhere in the world.

    I block the ads on the register now after inadvertently finding my page changing to some fucking HTC desire website because i clicked in the dead space as i was scrolling down.

    To return to topic, When watching TV, most of us are in a psychological state similar to hypnosis, Your mind is more open to suggestion that it is normally due to the comatose inducing affect of watching the idiot box for hours at a time.

    Those brightly coloured, loud flashing ads are more likely to be embedded in your mind than they otherwise would be.

    I think that this is both interesting and scary. If you find yourself coming home from the shops one day having purchased something with no idea what your going to do with it then perhaps it's time to stop watching the ads.

    1. Spoonsinger

      Re: sheilas wheels

      My theory is that those adverts were so irritating the European Court of Justice had to step because they contravened some WHO mandate or another.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: sheilas wheels

      Radio Adverts big problem (in a News program are worst).

      The Mute is no use as you can't tell when the program is back :(

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Mage (was: Re: sheilas wheels)

        The only radio I listen to is Baseball. Baseball commercials are exactly 2 minutes long. I have a button on the dash of all the motor vehicles to mute the radio for exactly 110 seconds (sometimes I'm actually driving & it takes a second or two to hit the button.) I have a similar mute button here in the office. Have you tried timing the "content" and "advert" on your favorite radio programs on an hour-by-hour basis? Cobbling up a simple timer system to mute such things automatically should be simple.

        As for television, my remote is cob-webbed to the set-top box for months at a time. TV is a vast, useless wasteland.

        1. Chris Miller


          You omitted the word 'US' from the beginning of your final sentence.

    3. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Re: sheilas wheels

      Adverts aren't technically any louder than television programmes, they just appear subjectively louder for a couple of reasons: the audio is compressed and everything is pumped up to near the peak. In a TV show you get a varied audio from very quiet to very loud, for a lot of reasons: they want you to hear the actors talking, they want to draw yor attention to particular sounds over a quiet background, and they don't want to piss you off and wear you out. Adverts on the other hand want to GRAB YOU AND SHAKE YOU LIKE A RAG DOLL so they compress and maintain a constant volume, exploiting a few quirks of how the brain processes sound to draw your attention. They don't want to hold it for long, just long enough to insert a message.

      In addition, the use of constant volume and relatively high frequency sound effectively overloads the brain and places it in a highly receptive state; the sheer amount of information presented by a full spectrum of sound at the same volume forces your brain to stop trying to pick and choose what to process and just take it all in.

      As far as I can tell (and this isn't backed by any studies, it's just me yammering at this point) the effect creates a condition very similar to that of a mild autism spectrum disorder. Most of these disorders affect the way information is filtered and processed by the brain, usually preventing effective filtering and prioritising, with one of the side effects being form of pronoia (or anti-paranoia perhaps), being unable to understand lies and implicitly trusting everything someone says as authoritative# simply because they said it. People with higher functioning autism spectrum disorders develop coping mechanisms that allow them to understand when something isn't true, or at least put it aside until they can find out, and also allow them to filter out unwanted simuli. We who are not "blessed" with this ability are turned into absolutely trusting innocents for just a few moments when an advert blasts at us. Just long enough for the message to start worming its way in.

      They're a very primitive and ineffectual version of snowcrash. But they aren't any louder.

      Also, volume isn't measured in parts per million. :)

      1. A J Stiles

        Re: sheilas wheels

        Who said anything about parts per million?

        PPM is Peak Programme Meter. A specially weighted scale for audio volume levels with a fast attack and slow decay, so you can spot what's likely to cause distortion. It goes from 1 to 7. 1 is barely audible, 4 (centre scale, and nominal 0dB) is what you are supposed to aim for. 7 ppm is full modulation, i.e. distortion is inevitable.

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          @ A J Stiles Re: sheilas wheels

          I hang my head in shame sir.

      2. bexley

        Re: sheilas wheels

        Yes well...I've been working at the pointy end of the TV industry for 11 years now, i'll be sure to point out to everyone here that they have been doing it wrong and to give you a call.

        PPM (i had hoped that this would be obvious) in this case does not stand for Parts per million.

        It's Peak program meter you imbecile

        with the chastising out of the way, it is fair to say that commercials have higher production values than most program material but it's far less sinister than your explanation. Ads pay, programs don't, therefore the ads producers spend more effort on setting the levels to peak without clipping.

    4. Cosmo

      Re: sheilas wheels

      Go Compare did that to me.

      I wake up having nightmares about that bloody advert

    5. AdamWill

      Re: sheilas wheels

      The U.S. quite recently passed a law requiring advertisements not to exceed the normal volume of the programming they're embedded in (there's a lot more technical detail in the rule, but that's effectively what it says). Great idea. Other countries should pick it up...

  20. kain preacher

    What I can;t stand are ads that make no sense or I have no idea what the are advertising. h and FOX on demand sucks cause you canst speed it up or go back.

  21. Peter Clarke 1


    Surely with BigBrother/Batchelor/ Celebrity/ X Factor /BGT et al the adverts are far more entertaining than the program content

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The futile roars of neo-dinosaurs at the Red Queen

    Software has existed for years which will identify and cut adverts from video streams, I see this has now appeared in appliances. I suppose the next target will be the deletion of excessive product placements; that should be make for fun product review shows :-P

    Who really needs a broadcast media signal receiver for routine use?

    I don't, so the minions of the BBC are out of luck.

    I stopped watching most broadcast media years ago due to the stupid time and space restrictions; most of my media is from the internet now.

  23. heyrick Silver badge

    Now and Then, Here and There

    It used to be: New programme. It has about 10 minutes to hook me. Is it good? Okay, advert break. Pop the kettle on, pee, make tea, back for the next part of the programme. Not bad. Second advert break, where did I put the salt & vinegar crisps? Third advert break... mmmm, have I had any email?

    How it is now: Rarely watch anything "live". It all goes onto my Neuros OSD. Pop out the SD card, insert it into the computer, warm up SMPlayer, watch. Adbreak? PageDown a few times, what adbreak? Now I can watch something without the flow being interrupted by Yet Another DFS Sale.

    On a more serious note. Look at the stuff being advertised. There's a lot of advert for general stuff like butter (so bad everybody cries when they taste it), a cute girl delivering milk for some sort of yoghurt, nappies, how the NatWest are really very helpful (cough cough), etc. But then there are adverts for cars and sofas - I mean, what sort of person would buy a hideous leather sofa, or new-model Peugeot just 'cos they saw it on a telly advert? Especially the ones late at night - like "oh my God I must get a Qashquia RIGHT NOW (or maybe once I've figured out how to spell it)!". I don't think so...

    Maybe we identify better with adverts that give us something. Like the annoying two and their coffee romance. Or the BT "family" (what happened to them?). An advert that makes us laugh, or facepalm. It doesn't matter, so long at it isn't "oooh, look, shiny, you want it right?".

    The advert I remember most? That epic dose of existential nonsense that was Rutger Hauer punting Guinness. It was deep, possibly meaninful if you thought about it too hard, and beautiful to look at. Compare this with... a lot of current adverts. They're all a bit meh. There's zero incentive to actually take the time to watch an advertisement.

    1. LaeMing

      But engaging adverts cost money!

      Which can be better spent on coke* and hookers**.

      * The powder, not the drink.

      ** The sex worker, not the football player.

    2. Irongut

      Re: Now and Then, Here and There

      Rutger Hauer is probably partly to blame for the fact that I drink Guiness. They were great adverts.

      1. Andrew Moore

        Re: Now and Then, Here and There

        Pity Guinness is a crap product.

        And I write that as an Irish person.

    3. cyborg

      Re: Now and Then, Here and There

      The BT family has been replaced with a student flat share spin-off featuring the perpetually mystified looking teenager, a female and a creepy older guy who is presumably one of the perma-student types who is constantly trying to creep onto the girl via the use of BT broadband services.

      I don't really know what type of message they are trying to convey there.

  24. C. P. Cosgrove

    Guinness is GOOD for you . . .

    I remember the Rutger Hauer ads, but the one that really floated my boat was the one with the group of surfers on a really foul day. 'Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock.'

    I remember recording the advert - not the programme - so as to stepframe it and see how the producers did the transitions.

    Sad, or what ?

    Chris Cosgrove

  25. JaitcH

    "because the company continues to purvey the myth that TV viewing is growing"

    Sounds like they have the same mentality of the TV licence spotter vans who are firmly convinced everyone watches TV, even if there is no TV in the house.

    I tossed my TV years ago and only am able to watch through my daughter's computer, which gas an adapter.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: "because the company continues to purvey the myth that TV viewing is growing"

      Thus assuming your daughter still lives with you, you do still have and use television receiving equipment.

      So you or your daughter does still need a licence and the TV licencing people remain accurate in their assumption.

      If you only watch iPlayer and other on-demand "repeats" and never at the same time as it's broadcast, that's when you don't need a licence.

      - Incidentally, there's no longer such a thing as a 'TV detector van'. Many years ago they could tell by the CRT baseband squeal, even knowing which channel, but it's now much easier and more accurate to assume that 99.9% of the population have and use TV receiving equipment, coupled with the database of TV receiving equipment purchases.

      That said, Capita do have themselves to blame over continually bugging people who genuinely have no TV receiving kit. And even repeatedly visiting people who already have a TV licence - that one really annoys me.

  26. mmoneta

    TV vs. Internet

    I generally watch Internet-based content, vs. broadcast or cable TV. When I did watch TV, I never watched the commercials. The strange thing is for Internet shows that I really do like (like DailyGrace or SciShow on YouTube), I will watch the pre-roll ad - because it directly pays the artist back for the content. Many of these folks live on the day-to-day revenue they receive from YouTube. On the other hand, TV shows are bought and paid for and 'in the can', with the artists paid before the first episode of the series airs. This discontinuity makes not watching the ad on TV OK in my mind; it's the non-creative middle-men that are impacted.

    Frankly, TV and most movies, for the most part, are no longer engaging; given a choice between TV content and Internet content, I tend to pick internet content every time, and I'm well into my 50's.

    The other comment I had was on the reported viewing. I don't know anyone under 30 years old that doesn't download at least some of their programming. In 20 years, that will be the over 50-year old demographic as well; they don't suddenly become brain-dead on their birthday. In fact, I regularly run into folks in the 50's that are now watching via downloads. I'm quite certain that none of those are accurately reporting their viewing habits, no matter who asks.

  27. P. Lee

    When I was a lad...

    There were twenty-minute programme segments followed by three twenty-second ads and back to the programme. Perhaps that's wishful thinking, but I'm sure you had to rush to put the kettle on.

    With short ad-breaks it is hardly worth turning away. Put on 6 45-second ads, two of which are the same and there is no way I'm sticking around.

    Everything in our house gets PVR'd. It isn't only pleasant but removes the tv as a common form of entertainment for the kids (no big-screen in the lounge). Occasionally, if we have to watch live or on catchup-tv, there are constant comments about having forgotten how awful live tv is. Even if something is on while we want to watch it, we'll pick something else until its over half-way through, so we don't have to endure the not-just-long but unappealing adverts. Australian networks especially seems to have no idea how a story's flow can be ruined by an ad-break.

    An unintended and interesting side-effect of a pvr is that we are reducing our TV viewing. We don't watch spontaneously or turn it on just to see what's on. We'd probably be inclined to watch more if it wasn't such a terrible experience.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: When I was a lad...

      "An unintended and interesting side-effect of a pvr is that we are reducing our TV viewing."

      I watch animé and such on-line, and a TV film if it sounds interesting. I want to PVR "The Walking Dead" on C5 on Monday, so I've just been out prodding my dish that got pushed out of alignment by a strong wind... Tuesday evening last week, I think...

      I'm with you on this one. Now I have choices (and, ironically, one of them being the "off" button), I find my TV consumption is dropping. TWD as mentioned, Castle... um... forty-odd channels and that's it? Yawn. Come on, somebody just add ninjas!

  28. Cyberelic


    I've noticed that with older but still perfectly good bedroom TV's the remotes tend to die and have to be replaced because the sound kill button goes.

    Some time back I had a TV (One of those giant boxes with decent sound) which had a 'reduce sound' button so that the volume was reduced considerably during adverts. Sadly the other half watered the plant on top and the electrics died.


  29. MikeHuk

    Killing the golden goose

    The thing that really annoys me is that the licensing authority has allowed more advert breaks and increase length, when there were only one or two breaks in a program and the length of the break was limited to three minutes, the adverts didn't annoy. Today however I have a DVR which allows me to pause the TV and skip the adverts by giving me the pause deferred time. I wait 5 minutes then select live TV, so never see the adverts. The TV companies are killing the goose that laid golden eggs by annoying viewers so much that they avoid adverts altogether. As advertisers realise that adverts are having no effect on sales they will stop using TV advertising. I do watch some BBC programs (although the dumbing down of their schedule mean that there is less and less to watch) I find that the number of trailers is almost as bad as the adverts on commercial TV so I skip those as well.

  30. wiggers
    Thumb Down

    Licence fee

    I'd happily pay double or even triple if it meant there were no ads interrupting the content. When my street was first cabled I naively signed up thinking, as it was a paid-for service, there'd be fewer ads. Very quickly cancelled the subscription! Sadly, it seems the more you pay for a broadcast service the more your enjoyment of the content is spoiled by annoying shouty people telling you what to buy. Thank god for PVRs and LoveFilm to rent box-sets.

    1. tfewster
      Thumb Up

      Re: Licence fee

      I worked it out as approx £200 per household per year, to completely replace all TV advertising revenue with subscriptions. But I'd settle for 3 minutes of "comfort breaks" every 15 minutes. They can show what they like then, so long as they give me a decent transition/warning notice that the programme is about to restart. (2nd page of comments)

  31. Killraven

    Not this article's target audience...

    "young people's ability to multi-task" should not be confused with an inability to actually stay focused on a single task/program, or to maintain interest in a program over a 3-minute span of adverts.

    The vast majority of my friends watch their preferred programs on "linear TV". DVRs, some VCRs, and online access such as NetFlix or Hulu are only used when they won't be home to view the program on the first run.

  32. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    The joke is...

    that the advertisers seem to imagine that there is some implicit contract: we fund the entertainment and in return you have to watch our adverts.

    No such contract exists; the viewer/listener has the perfect right to ignore the message completely.

    Unfortunately, since with very few exceptions, the entire broadcast TV/Radio industry is predicated on and funded by this imagined contract. It would seem that the advertisers have two choices: either make adverts that people want to watch, or make programs that people want to watch. And they don't seem to do terribly well and the first is, well, kind of hard to do too.

  33. ScottME

    What ads?

    I do quite a lot of consumer surveys and they often show you some ads and say "have you seen this?" Invariably I haven't, and I tell them so. They ask how the ad changes my impression of the product or brand: it doesn't. I really don't see the point.

    Compaines would do much better if they invested their marketing budgets into improving their products, or reducing their prices. Word would get around pretty fast, and the best products would sell on their merits.

    Yes, I know most consumers are dumb. I still think it would work.

  34. Bilby

    Less is more

    It doesn't matter how many minutes per hour of TV are devoted to advertisements - the total spend on TV advertising will remain roughly constant. In Australia, we have loads of slots on sale - so they are cheap, and Max Annoying can afford to make a ten second movie of himself standing in front of his dodgy used car lot screaming at me about how great this week's deals are.

    In the UK (at least, back in the good old days when I lived over there, and beer was less than a pound a pint), there were strict limits on the ads per hour; and only one channel allowed to have them at all. This did not significantly reduce the revenue to be had by selling TV ads; oh no. The revenue was simply concentrated in a smaller space, and as a result, it was essential to advertisers that they made better ads - even if they were more expensive - with the result that Rutger Hauer sold us Guiness without screaming at us (even though it could cost more than a pound a pint).

    The proliferation of TV channels, coupled with the insanely large proportion of all that airtime that is devoted to advertising in Australia leads to vast numbers of cheap, crappy ads that no-one cares about. It is simple inflation - increase the supply, and the value plummets.

    Of course, if any one channel or network tries to improve the value of their advertising slots by reducing the number available, the other networks will happily grab their share of the loot. The only solution would be for the government to impose a legal constraint, limiting advertising time per hour across all channels. I am prepared to bet that not only would such a constraint not reduce the networks' revenue, but that it would actually result in better penetration of those ads that were still broadcast. Even Mr Annoying would benefit - he could spend his advertising budget on radio, billboards and other media that might actually reach his potential customers, instead of wasting it on TV slots that everyone fast-forwards through, and which benefit no-one but the sales droids at the TV networks.

    Of course I won't be holding my breath waiting for this to happen.

  35. Neil Charles

    Linear TV watching is dropping

    Because you say it is? As opposed to Nielsen, whose job it is to, you know, measure it.

    No, the TV viewing figures aren't perfect but they're a damn sight better than 'social' alternatives. Say you build a multimillion dollar project to measure TV through Facebook. Facebook growth is slowing down (for sure) and may turn into decline (we can only hope). What then? Brand new audience methodology every five years based on the latest social fad?

    What about programmes that don't register on Facebook? There are lots that Nielsen can't register properly, even by actually logging what's shown on TVs. Is there a multi-thousand person discussion going on about those shows on Facebook? I doubt it.

    In conclusion, anyone involved in social media shouldn't be let anywhere near TV viewing figures. Sort your own field out and leave TV alone. It's fine.

  36. Miek

    Adverts are the reason I abandoned 'normal' television. Personally, if I feel the need to buy something, I check around for a product to buy and then buy it. Advertising is not required.

  37. David Cantrell

    "We know of nobody who watches linear TV if it can be avoided"?

    You are aware, right, that there are an awful lot of people who pretty much raise their children on the surrogate tit of TV, and who have the TV on all day? But none of them are rich media professionals - media professionals know better than to turn the idiot box on - which I guess explains why media professionals don't pay any attention to them.

  38. Luke McCarthy

    Some ads are better than the programs

    I would gladly watch a full hour of Alexsandr and Sergei in their quest to compare the market (dot com).

  39. MJI Silver badge

    I FF past them

    But if I see a good one I will stop and watch, which would be very rarely.

    My wife was skipping them (ITV or C4) so I grabbed the remote and went back and had a look, well worth it - found the Uncharted 3 advert, reminded of this because during an episode of The Tube there were advertisements for UC3 in the background. I find FF easier than skipping a few seconds of 32x then stop on end of programme sponsor rubbish.

    Well made ads are good to watch most are total rubbish.

    Also there are anti adverts, too loud, annoying opera singers cause boycots. Whereas my boss was sent a toy Meerkat (real ones stink!).

    There used to be some clever ads - the aforementioned Guiness add (I don't like the drink but tried it), the Ridley Scott bread advert, the beer selling ice cream van.

    For terrible ads watch some of the 40n Freesat channels, there are some right stinkers even at 64x, but the ones on the other programme I watch are targeted and not as bad. OK so I don't mind adverts from where we got our caravan from but those horrid CD collections or stupid pillows WHY? I just want to see new games not horrid CD collections.

  40. Tim Jacks

    PDF link is wrong!

    Should be:

    They spell it the American way...

    1. JudeKay (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: PDF link is wrong!

      Thanks - we've fixed the link. Sorry about that.

  41. Inachu

    To those who care.

    I forgot where I read it at but years ago I read the technical info behind some Internet Explorer addons that come with windows and the RESEARCH add is really for and by the Neilson rating system.

    When you disable the research addon then Nielson ratings do not get any data from your browsing.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I seem to recall Philips working on a TV concept that only allowed a user to switch channels during the main feature, and disable the channel hopping feature (and the off button) during the ad breaks.

  43. Dave Oldham

    Ads on DVDs

    I have two DVDs with advertisments for Mars Bars, (I don't like Mars Bars, but that is beside the point.) The ads are in the trailers, and you can skip the trailers, you cannot do with the ads.

  44. Thorfkin

    Value For Money

    I'm of the opinion that Television programming providers here in the US are actually on a downward slide that will, at some point in the future, take a sharp dive. Most of my family's older members spend a lot of time watching television but it seems the younger views, prefer to watch shows online. I'm rather in the middle on this trend.

    I think television providers like Dish Network, Direct TV, Comcast, etc. have forgotten that viewers pay for Value not for programming. As I've gotten older I've formed the unwavering opinion that the rampant commercialization of today's television content has complete drained the value from that content. So much so that I refuse to pay for cable television. There are channels available that are commercial free, HBO / Showtime / Cinemax, but none of the content providers will sell you access to just a paid channel by itself without some for of basic or extended package also present on the account. This destroys the value completely. And so I refuse to give them any of my money, opting instead to wait until the show hits blu-ray (if I really like it) or netflix which is commercial free. I'd love it if say Dish Network would sell me access to just one premium channel by itself, HBO for example. That would provide genuine value for my money.

    I've found it to be an insurmountable challenge to make television providers understand that I am an All or Nothing type of viewer. Either I am paying for the content and it had better be 100% commercial free, or it cost me nothing at all to view the content and I would expect it to be ad supported. Under no circumstances will I watch a show that I have to pay for AND has commercials in it. I've voted with my wallet by not purchasing cable television but my small contribution to this cause is like a fly trying to stop a freight train. I wish more people would stand up and make this opinion known to them.

    Anyway. I think that older people are just so used to paying for commercial-infected content that they continue to pay blindly for material that should be totally free to them. I also think that as the older generations pass on and the more tech savvy generations are left that TV providers may suddenly find themselves without any customers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Value For Money

      "Either I am paying for the content and it had better be 100% commercial free, or it cost me nothing at all to view the content and I would expect it to be ad supported."

      You are aware, are you not, that it is theoretically possible for ads to cover N% of the production cost and for subscriptions to cover 100-N%?

      I mean, I have a subscription to the Economist. I pay for it. But there are also ads in the magazine. I don't see this as some kind of egregious violation of morality; the ads pull down the subscription price somewhat - which increases circulation, and thus increases the value of the ads. Presumably there's some sweet spot somewhere.

      At any rate, the idea that something needs to be either completely ad supported or completely subscription supported is a false choice, no different than saying that a band (hypothetically let's say they're independent and sell albums themselves) has to make its money from concerts, or from album sales, but not *both*, because then when you buy an album without going to a concert you're being ripped off.

      Get pissed off if ads support 100% of the program cost and the subscription fee is gravy. But even then, there's presumably some amount allowed for profit (businesses do need this) and it would be just as easy to rip off by 140% with more ads gaining an extra bunch of income, as it would be from paying 100% with ads and stacking another 40% on with subscription costs.

      You're essentially complaining about *pricing*, and since you have no particular way of knowing what the company's actual costs are, all you can do is decide whether the money you spend plus the aggravation of the ads is justified by the content.

      Also, it may come as a shock, but running the infrastructure for a cable company is not, in fact, free. I know, I know - this is difficult to believe - but running cable, doing maintenance, keeping and upgrading back-end hardware, doing marketing, handling support, administering staff, handling subscription issues, etc, does require actual money. That money, as it turns out, at least partially comes from the person who is getting a signal from the aforementioned cable. The fact that there are commercials on some of the data that cable spits out is neither here nor there as far as the cable operator is concerned.

      When the guy shows up at my place to debug our cable connection, he doesn't think, "Well - there are commercials on TLC, so I don't need to buy gas or tires for this truck, and I certainly don't need to be paid for my time."

      You can hate on big-ass cable companies (mine happens to be a small-ass cable company, which I can call and ask to talk to Mr. CableCompanyName and get him) but there are still real costs involved with the system.

      Acting like the TV programs should be free because you pay for the cable run to your house is nonsense - like bitching that World Of Warcraft should be free because you already pay for internet. OK, cable companies are cozier with TV content providers (at least, when they're not engaged in running court battles) than they are with Blizzard. But on a basic level the point remains: Your paying for a cable TV connection is (or at least could easily be) largely unrelated to the cost of content itself (I'm fairly sure that the guys who make Top Gear don't get any money from my NobodyCable, Inc subscription) - and thus the commercials accompanying it.

      Further, as I wrote above, even if they *are* connected, it's not relevant. Many products have multiple funding sources, and that in itself is neither good nor bad. If you don't like one of them, it's up to you whether it overrides the value of the content as a whole - but sputtering that split funding is intrinsically immoral just makes no sense.

  45. Mike VandeVelde

    I used to have quite a low opinion of marketers,

    who knew it could go that much lower?? This article is batshit crazy, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin comes to mind.

    "Adverts are not only here to stay, but they are proliferating"

    I gave up on cable tv a year ago, been running adblock ever since I first heard of it. I'm sure I'm not in a shrinking demographic.

    "Surely measuring the volume of comments relative to comments about other shows tells us more than trying to work out who likes the show versus who doesn‘t."

    Sure ok, I have no public Facebook comments anyway so what do I care, fill your boots. Now quit while you're ahead.

    "The 20 rule is that every person under the age of 20 in any particular US house leaves a TV on, when they leave a room. It is also the N+1 principle. In any given US home, however many people there are in the home at a given point, this many TVs are left turned on, plus one."

    Nope, and nope. You're welcome.

    "But beyond that, even if a comment on an actor is a poor one, it might be because he is a very well-acted villain, and surely that means a high level of engagement with the programme, not a low one?"

    I think I just puked in my mouth a little. You want me to pay for cable TV, plus you want to fill some ridiculous portion of it with advertising, plus you want to hook me up to some kind of mind scanner to see if I'm "engaged"? And not just yes or no, but like really get to know me and individually interpret every utterance I make and put it on a scale of 1 to 1,000? Like fuck.

    "Kids think: "I‘d better watch and or catch up with this programmeme, or else I won‘t have anything to say to everyone else and they will all tell me the plot.""


    "other ways to measure engagement which may soon become available to us ... if both the TV and the companion device ... comment on it simultaneously on a social media site ... apps which listen to your screen ... search and recommendation elements ... metrics on how many programmes are watched all the way through ... underlying demographics on the household ... will have a high level of engagement, due to the high levels of calculated interest"

    STOP! Just stop, for the love of all that's holy! The day when it is possible to have all that wired together, for the brain dead useless purpose of marketing no less, let alone for spooks who can at least pay lip service to national security, is the day I say so long suckers and head off to the woods to build me a survivalist bunker.

    "Of course the reach of tablets needs to become almost universal, something we cannot count on until at least a five-year time frame."

    Eh? You mean like shortly after everyone is wearing one of these?

    "While Facebook does not play in this market, it actually has the edge, in that it could peep inside of every Facebook message even the private ones"

    Shouldn't uttering that sentence, or even forming that thought be a capital offence??

    "Actually if Facebook could simply leverage aggregated social media commentary in all walks of life..."

    ... then it could give us flying cars and robot butlers as well. I'm sure (ok hopeful) that regulatory bodies might have something to say about that.

    "No-one is content to stay purely with eyeball counts any longer, so there is progress."

    Did you really just say progress?!?!

    "Putting adverts into programmes in real time, to the right people who are known to have an interest in a subject, who have the wherewithal to afford the advertised product and who are watching TV now, and perhaps even watching a programme on a similar subject, leverages advertising appeal by multiple dimensions."

    Leverages advertising appeal from fuck right off (0) through to you did what to me OK now you and I have a serious problem (-1,000,000).

    "Advertising appeal"

    Like, military intelligence? Business ethics? Accurate estimate? Clean coal?

    There is no kind of ad you can come up with, or delivery system for it, where the experience will make me think "gee that was a pleasant and useful way to spend my time, I'll have to do that again as soon as I can". Maybe you can make me chuckle, but even still all it really makes me think is "look there's another company with too much money to toss around, I sure would have to be dumb to give them even more". Noticeable/memorable ads are the same as big charitable donations or obscene management compensation, a bloody big blinking neon sign saying avoid this brand wherever possible it's obviously way overpriced.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: I used to have quite a low opinion of marketers,

      I must say, I'm not even sure why you still own a computer.

      Also, given your general attitude, it seems highly likely that at some point ten years ago, you violently predicted your imminent departure to the forest should a certain set of circumstances arrive. Given the generally under-predicted pace of technological change, those circumstances have almost certainly already arrived - therefore, I suggest that you evaluate the situation and begin ordering supplies for your survivalist bunker.

      Just make sure you don't order them from a company that does marketing. That'd be hypocritical, after all - though expecting consistency from a guy who suggests that you should 'avoid the brand' of a charity that receives large donations is... well, I'm not sure what it is, but it makes about as much sense as fleeing to the forest because someone you don't have a relationship with asked permission to read the tweets you undoubtedly don't make to help them sell things you don't buy.

      In the end, you're not angry with the marketers (though you convince yourself you are, since the reality is hard to handle if you want to be consistent ). You're angry with people in general. You're angry that people *want* any of this to happen, angry that there are people who *don't* use adblock, and angry that there are people who - worst of worst - *buy products and do things you don't want to buy or do yourself*. It's in the same vein as people who are angry that there are people who don't use linux, or people who are angry that people watch reality TV and buy John Grisham novels.

      Sorry, guys, I hate to break this to you - but you're not the only people in the world. You're not even very many people in the world.

      And the world isn't obliged to reshape itself to match your Inspiration-For-Sheldon-From-Big-Bang-Theory philosophies. Just because you don't want it doesn't mean other people don't, and it's not your righteous moral obligation to condemn them or save them. They honestly don't care.

      Sorry. You're going to have to deal with it. Maybe read some more of El Reg, the web site that's paid for with the ads you block and bankrolled by the people you detest most in the world. Come to think of it, shouldn't you be somewhere else? Maybe there are still some Gopher servers around. I don't think they've sold out to the man yet.

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