A world without TV ads?

This cartoon strip of Rudy Park today, in some way brings out the revolution in TV watching that TiVo has pioneered.

Yes, we have all been pissed out with watching too much TV ads throughout the day. In India, there is still no no-ads subscription based cable TV service - even HBO. Star Movies is one of the nice guys, showing non-stop movies after midnight - no ads at all! Some channels like Sony AXN show more frequent, shorter durations ads, while others do the opposite.

Watching cricket is no longer as fun as say, 10 years back. That was a time when we could watch the end of over bowler changing, field realignment etc. Nowadays, as soon as the last ball of the over stops running, the ads start up, and you get to see the match only when the next bowler has already started running for his first ball.

Pathetic situation, till TiVO changed the game in US. (Things havent changed much in India till now). Now you can record TV matches and serials without any ads in between! All automated! If I am not wrong, you can even pause a live broadcast and come back later, with TiVO playing it back to you with a lag (keeping recording to make up the lag) . Ofcourse it hasnt come to India yet, but I suspect that is only a matter of time.

It hasnt been easy for TiVO - it had to go through a lot of legal problems initially. Even now, it can only coexist now in the US marketplace by complying to strict copy protection measures like the broadcast flag.

However, all this raises an interesting question - can you really envisage a world without ads? Ads are an age old and important (even though now irritiating and invasive) channel of communication between producers and consumers. You can find out more about what a product is about, the various schemes in effect, discounts during seasons, upcoming products and so much more! Without ads, you simply are an uninformed consumer in the market - which is bad for both the producer and the consumer.

The problem is that all the significant decisions of showing ads are being done by the producer. This simply cant be successful! The consumer will get wiser and get hold of devices like TiVo or, in the case of web advertising, mechanisms like the Mozilla Adblock extension which lets people like me to block out advertiser domains for ever.

The solution is probably a mix where the consumer gets a say in when, where and how much ads to see. I am ok with a 5 min break every hour while watching movies, thank you. Gives me some time to go get a leak, or rehydrate myself with my favorite poison. I am NOT ok with ads during matches - yes, that might be difficult for advertisers and organizers, but you did ask me when I want my ads, right?

Advertisers, we like ads, … some of the times … not all the time. Till the day you stop pushing ads down our gullet, we will keep finding out ways to avoid them. Get a clue from Google and their unobtrusive and highly targetted text ads (which works even better in Gmail where more subscriber info is known.)

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