Consumers have complained for years about the barrage of commercials and promotions that interrupt TV shows. Now there are signs that networks are finally taking notice. According to MindShare's annual Clutter Watch report--clutter in TV ad speak is commercials and/or show promotions--the average hourly amount of airtime devoted to clutter was flat last year (at approximately 15 minutes), after having risen 3 percent in 2005. On average, growth in clutter slowed to 1 percent, from 5.5 percent in 2005.
The figures don't yet warrant a celebration from marketers, who worry their messages are being lost in a sea of commercials, but the overall picture suggests the industry is starting to restrain itself. "Over the long term clutter goes up and up and up," says Debbie Solomon, a senior partner and research director for MindShare. "This year, the growth was less than in previous years."
Adding fuel to the fire is new information from Nielsen Media Research, which has started to track the number of people watching commercials during a program. The research found audience levels drop off when a program goes to commercial break, confirming marketers' long-held suspicion that high clutter leads to viewers changing the channel when a commercial comes on.
Solomon says this data highlights concerns about the value of TV versus increasing distractions in prime time. A recent MindShare study of 800 people between the ages of eight and 17 revealed that about one-third of respondents said they now watch TV on the Internet, while more than 25 percent of kids from age eight to age 12 do so. More than 30 percent of kids and 45 percent of teens said they learn about new trends and products on the Internet. Solomon says: "The Internet is an incredibly important medium for the next generation of leading U.S. consumers--top marketers will have to go beyond traditional approaches and explore a range of emerging media strategies to connect with them."