----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: On DVRs

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I love my DVR. I used to record all my shows with my VCR, but with a DVR it's so much more convenient, and I don't have to worry about missing an episode if it's on at a "special night and time." We gave my in-laws, the Blacklabels, a Tivo for Christmas, and they love it, too.

That's why I was so upset to read this article (which unfortunately you have to sign in to read) in MediaPost's Media Daily News. David Goetzl and Wayne Friedman spoke with ABC President of Advertising Sales Mike Shaw, who thinks that DVRs should no longer come with fast-forward buttons. He doesn't want people skipping ads (obviously), and he also doesn't think that the primary purpose of DVRs is to skip ads. Rather, he thinks the point is to watch shows when you want to watch them. Well, yeah. But it's also to fast-forward through the ads.

His idea of disabling the DVR fast-forward button is one of the most asinine I've heard yet. Although I am sure that most people use the fast-forward button to skip ads, the button has other uses, as well. What if you're recording something and you want to rewind to hear a line of dialogue you've missed, and then you want to fast-forward again? What if you're watching a show that has absurdly long opening credits, like Entourage, and you want to fast-forward through them? What if you're watching basketball and you disagree with everything Charles Barkley says, so you want to fast-forward through all his comments on the halftime show?

In the article, Shaw says, "I'm not sure that the driving reason to get a DVR in the first place is just to skip commercials. I don't fundamentally believe that. People can understand in order to have convenience and on-demand (options), that you can't skip commercials."

Maybe skipping commercials isn't the main reason to get a DVR, but it sure is a nice feature. And almost everyone I know loves to skip the ads. Even if they're at home and are going to watch a show the night it airs, most people I know record the show and then wait 10 or 15 minutes until after it's started, just so they can skip the commercials! Also, I don't see why we have to pay for convenience by watching commericals. After all, people have been able to skip commercials and have the on-demand features for years through effective use of VCRs. This just makes no sense to me.

Shaw also says, "we're just training a new generation of viewers to skip commercials because they can." Again, I disagree. People have been able to do that for years with VCRs. Perhaps Shaw's craziest moment comes when he says that he doesn't think there will be a big consumer backlash if DVRs no longer come with a fast-forward button. I, for one, would be up in arms! Why should some ad sales guy be able to force me to watch commercials? I don't think I would be alone in my outrage. If that day comes, I would go back to using my VCR, or I would get what my friends term "Free-vo," which is a sort of DVR you can set up yourself with a computer and a Linux program. I don't really understand it, and I would have to pay someone to set it up for me, but if that would preserve my ability to fast-forward, I would do it in a heartbeat. Face it, Shaw--once you have given people the ability to fast-forward, you can't take it away from them. You just can't put that genie back in the bottle.

I really don't understand why all these ad people are so upset about fast-forwarding anyway. I have three simple solutions to get viewers to watch ads that they would normally fast-forward, and I will share my genius insights for free.
1.) Make a commercial that is really, really funny. For example, those Citibank identity theft ads. They are hilarious, especially the new one with the old ladies who sound like hillbillies and have purchased motorcycles with their stolen identities. Every time I'm fast-forwarding through commericals and I see one of those ads come on, I stop and watch it because it makes me laugh. My husband likes to watch the monkey ads--I don't even know what company they're for, but it's about trying to work with monkeys, and he finds them hilarious, probably because the ads so closely mirror his own work situation. If ads are entertaining enough, people will enjoy watching them. If they are stupid and annoying, which most ads are, people will fast-forward them.
2.) Make a commercial that looks really bizarre or intriguing while it's being played in fast-forward! Even while I'm fast-forwarding, I can get the gist of most ads. And if something catches my eye in an unusual way while I'm fast-forwarding, I often go back and watch it, just to see what the heck is going on.
3.) Buy ad time right after the TV show segment ends or right before it begins again. I'm sure this is already part of the strategy of some media buyers, and networks could probably charge a premium for this time, if they don't already. Look, fast-forwarding is not an exact science. Most people are not that quick on the trigger, and can't start fast-forwarding as soon as a commercial starts. There's a little bit of lag time. Also, it's easy to overshoot and fast-forward through some of the start of the next TV segment, so you have to rewind and try again. Then, you probably catch part of the ad that preceded the segment. Sleep Train always sticks in my mind because it always seems to have ads right before the program begins again. Also, those ads are quick and to the point. How much do you really need to say, anyway?

So there you have it. My solutions to keep the fast-forward button and still get people to watch some ads. And come on, people...is there anyone out there who wouldn't be just a tiny bit peeved to lose the fast-forward button on the DVR? I sure would be. If this Mike Shaw thinks there wouldn't be backlash, I'm afraid he's got another think coming.


  • At 2:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dear Astera,

    It makes a great deal of sense to me. As an avid Tivo user, I believe your comments are on point. I recommend you send them to Mr. Shaw and to Adweek, which is a trade magazine that Mr. Pink would know. Anyway, this may give you some consulting work for either Adweek or Mr. Shaw. A win-win situation in my opinion from the other side of the globe.

    O Kanenas

  • At 6:45 AM, Blogger Sean G. Kilkelly said…

    Thanks for checking out my blog and the summer reading suggestions. I really like your blog and find your writing to be excellent. I will check back here often.

  • At 10:11 AM, Blogger Bruingirl said…

    To be perfectly honest with you, I think those Citi ads are rather disturbing. There's that one with the big black dude who sounds like a young girl. That gives me the heebie jeebies! Yes, it sticks in my mind, but I cannot stand that commercial!!! I prefer the Bud and Miller commercials. There's a great one that was one during the World Cup games on Univision where a guy goes to a liquor store and reaches up high for a case of Bud...only to use it as a step stool to grab for the Miller which is even higher up. I thought it was hilarious!


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