Digital Video Recorders are taking over the universe. Just this past April, Nielsen reported that a whopping 30.6% of U.S. Households have one. That’s up from just 12% of US households back in January of 2007. With such incredible growth, it’s not unreasonable to assume that DVRs will become standard in every household (and with every cable box you get from your cable provider) sooner rather than later. And if you think that makes the advertising industry want to commit mass hari kari, you would be correct.
I’ve worked in advertising for over a decade, and since the advent of TiVo, the Internet and On Demand programming, there’s long been a sense that the entire industry now has an expiration date. People will get a DVR, they’ll skip the ads, and TV ads will cease being effective on a global scale. All that will be left after the Armageddon will be products clumsily inserted into the broadcast at multiple obnoxious points. Watch an episode of “Project Runway” for just such an example. USE THE MACY’S ACCESSORY WALL WISELY.
But one network, AMC, has devised a plan for it new show “The Prisoner” to circumvent DVRs without resorting to blatant product placement. They’re called Prison Breaks, and according to Media Week, this is how they work:
One Prison Break block leads off with a five-second bumper, in which Prisoner star Jim Caviezel spies a pair of ghostly skyscrapers rising out of a barren desert. A voiceover tells viewers to hold tight for 30 seconds, upon which more about the apparition will be revealed. An ad for the 2010 Subaru Impreza WRX STI follows. After the spot concludes, a 10-second bump bookends the pod. (Ed. Note: A “pod” is a two-minute commercial segment)
The Prison Breaks are designed to prevent viewers from churning away during the commercial pods, but they also direct the attention toward specific objects, occurrences or bits of dialogue that may be of singular importance as the miniseries progresses.
Did you get that? Neither did I. Apparently, AMC believes you’ll decide to not skip through the commercials so that you can see Jim Caviezel look at buildings. It’s all part of some Byzantine puzzle of clues you’re unlikely to want to piece together. I doubt this strategy will be all that effective, but it is another sign that, somewhere down the road, the 30-second TV spot will cease to exist, and advertisers will continue finding new and adventurous ways to get you to pay attention to their products, squeezing into your favorite shows like a vole under your door.
Drew Magary is a writer for deadspin.com and the author of Men With Balls: The Professional Athlete’s Handbook.