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New York Times Media & Advertising: Now, the Clicking Is to Watch the Ads, Not Skip Them

Several people, including Larry L sent this to me while I was (attempting) to climb Mt Rainier.

Now, the Clicking Is to Watch the Ads, Not Skip Them, By STUART ELLIOTT:  NYT Advertising – Published: August 17, 2007

FOR generations, advertising interrupted the entertainment that Americans wanted to read, hear or watch. Now, in a turnabout, advertising is increasingly being presented as entertainment — and surprisingly, the idea of all ads, all the time, is gaining some favor. plans to have ads as the main attraction, joining other sites.

One reason is the proliferation of broadband Internet connections, which make it easier for computer users to watch or download video clips. That is enabling media companies, agencies and advertisers to create Web sites devoted to commercials and other forms of advertising for amusement, rather than hard-core huckstering.

Oddly, the trend runs counter to another powerful impulse among consumers: the growing desire to avoid advertising. TV viewers, for instance, are spending billions of dollars a year for TiVo and other digital video recorders that help them zip through or zap commercials, and click-through rates for banner Web ads are declining.

The difference between “watching a commercial on a Web site and in your living room,” said Michael Jacobs, executive vice president and executive creative director at MRM Worldwide in New York, is that online is “an opt-in audience; you’re choosing to be there.”

“It’s the nature of the Web to offer a destination you know you can go to and know what you’re going to see,” said Mr. Jacobs, whose agency is part of the McCann Worldgroup division of the Interpublic Group of Companies.

“There’s certainly an audience for entertainment as part of the offering,” he added. “The numbers seem to support it.”

For example,, a broadband Web site operated by the TBS cable network, has delivered more than 63 million video clip views since its introduction last August.

“It’s a very straightforward premise: You’re going to have a funny experience, and you’re going to have it every 30 seconds,” said Ken Schwab, senior vice president for programming at the TBS and TNT networks, parts of the Turner Broadcasting System division of Time Warner.

The funny-ad Web site is part of a rebranding campaign for the TBS network, which carries the theme “Very funny.” The goal is to cultivate an identity for TBS as a home for sitcoms and humorous movies.

“A lot of people talk about zipping through commercials because the average break doesn’t hold the promise of being entertaining,” Mr. Schwab said. By contrast, he said, “we have a very clear consumer proposition, on the site and in our shows.”

The concept of has been expanded onto TBS, Mr. Schwab said, as the network will “call out” some commercials as “very funny ads” in hopes of keeping viewers from changing channels.

“I’m in the industry, and I’ll fast-forward through the ads most of the time,” said David Droga, creative chairman at the Droga5 agency in New York. “But I’ll stop for the good ones.”

“You put choice on the table, you change the whole game,” Mr. Droga said, adding: “Everything is about control. If an ad is interesting to you, you’ll have the conversation with the brand. If it’s not, it’s a waste of time.”

In about a month, Mr. Droga plans to test his theory with the trial introduction by Droga5 and its partner, the Publicis Groupe, of a Web site named

Mr. Droga described the concept as “MTV meets QVC,” offering consumers in the intended audience of ages 18 to 30 product information in the form of entertaining video clips rather than traditional commercials. The clips are to run two to three minutes apiece, he added, and be presented by hosts considered authorities in categories like cars, clothing or computers.

“The only reason we have any chance of being successful is transparency,” Mr. Droga said — that is, “if people know they’re being sold to, you can celebrate the sell.”

The USA Network unit of NBC Universal, part of General Electric, also intends to climb aboard the pitch wagon celebrating advertising as entertainment with an online effort centered on brand-centric content.

Plans call for a Web site next year that would include commercials and movie trailers as well as features like social networking and tools that would let visitors make ads of their own. The site is tentatively named, as in “Didja see that?”

“It’s all about relevance,” said Chris McCumber, senior vice president for marketing and brand strategy at USA Network. “Consumers want to be entertained on their own time, on their own terms.”

“If a spot is not relevant, you’re going to want to tune it out,” he added. “This will be a platform for consumers to experience their favorite commercials or find out more information about a product.”

The proliferation of portals dedicated to advertising as entertainment could mean the trend is already peaking, just as cover articles in magazines about a stock market boom are often followed by plunging indexes.

“I don’t think it is so much about putting entertaining commercials on the Web as it is about brands providing immersive experiences for consumers of which entertainment is a component,” said Mr. Jacobs of MRM, whose agency recently won praise for musical Webisodes for Intel, directed by the humorist Christopher Guest, which are appearing on Web sites like and

The responses to a survey this week on the Adweek Web site ( suggest that advertising as entertainment is still a work in progress.

As of yesterday afternoon, 13 percent of respondents agreed the portals were “great fits for the current pop culture,” while 43 percent called them “too limited and doomed to fail.” The remaining respondents, 44 percent, agreed with a statement that they are “complete wild cards; let’s wait and see.”

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