Are TV commercials doomed to extinction?

Yeah, a GD question more than anything else, not nearly enough gravitas for GD tho IMHO (which has more active threads now than in recorded memory).

I’ve been noticing several long-term trends in TV commercials (US) which may be indicating that they may eventually disappear, to be replaced by some other form of advertising which is more efficient:

  1. The prevalence of Tivo and other commercial-evading hardware.

  2. Modern-day shows now typically devote only about 42 minutes of every hour to the actual programming, down 6 minutes from where it was only 20 years ago (watch a DVD of Equalizer or *Magnum PI *and note the final time). They obviously feel that they are getting less bang for their buck per minute of commercials time, or they wouldn’t have done this.

  3. Pop-up mini-ads in the middle of programs-usually to promo another show on the network in question, but I wouldn’t put it past any TV exec to shill beer in this manner eventually. Ostensibly to avoid the types of hardware I mentioned in #1.

  4. The goods and services advertised often anymore seem well…less than 100% legitimate, at best. The airwaves are currently crawling with ads for at least half-a-dozen “male enhancement” products. Then there’s the likes of FreeCreditReport.com, JG Wentworth, ambulance-chasing lawyers in every market, and so on. Yeah we’ve always had these kinds of lowlifes on the air, just seems like there’s more of them than before. When many legitimate businesses eschew over-the-air ads you know that they feel that TV isn’t an efficient or profitable way to sell their goods.

So are commercials doomed? Is this a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what replaces them (product placement, increasing use of pop-up ads, etc.)?

You underestimate the power of greed.

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if someone decided to combine the pop-up ads with a split screen effect, like many shows use when the credits are rolling so they can continue to show the end of the program.

And the power of inertia. I think there’s still a majority of viewers who sit down and watch shows as they are broadcast - commercials and all.

As Little Nemo says, as long as there are people who still sit there and watch, there will be adverts. I never understand why people look askance at me when I mention I don’t have cable and don’t ever watch anything coming over the airwaves. Why would I? There’s so many ads! I can just rent/buy/borrow the DVD.
But I still know tons of people religiously tied to their TVs and the schedules and can’t miss anything. The commercials are for them.

Rise up, people, and overthrow your addiction to the TV schedule! Or not, because when you do, there’ll be a ton more ads everywhere else.

This is a myth. Everyone with a DVR believes everyone else has one, but DVRs are not prevelant. In fact, only 20% of TV-watching households have them.

Some commercials are actually enjoyable. If anything, I think that the trend you described (to the extent that it exist) would simply give advertisers more incentive to make their commercials fun and engaging.

My prediction; as DVRs become more prevalent, advertisers will begin treating their commercial spots like billboards, knowing that the message will be readable only if it stays onscreen long enough for it to register with people who are hitting the fast-forward button. They’ll probably all just direct viewers to a URL anyway. Eventually, it may be that commercial spots last only 3-5 seconds and people find it easier to just sit through the 12-15 seconds of commercials than FF through them. After all, why spend millions on an ad campaign that will go mostly unwatched and unappreciated when you can just have words on a screen with a URL and/or a picture of a half-naked hot chick?

Same here.

Why would I watch raw TV when I can download a high quality, commercial free version of a TV show only a couple hours after it airs and then watch it and pause it at my convenience?

All mainstream, popular TV is routinely and safely available for download.

Also, this is the only way to get some of the programming from across the pond in the UK.

There is still no better way to get an ad message to a mass audience.

Even with TiVo, you still reach more people than anything else. What can do a better job? Magazines? Newspapers?

There may be commercials on Internet TV (things like Hulu and the network rebroadcasts, for instance), but even those are still too limited.

Ex-wife #2 works in the advertising industry. The reason for the explosion in TV ads by these types of companies is the relatively inexpensive cost of advertising on TV these days compared to 20 years ago. Before cable and satellite TV, your choices were the 3 networks, the local network affiliates and the 1 to 3 independent stations in each specific market. Today you have 5 networks, their affiliates, many more independent stations plus a couple hundred non broadcast networks. Even your local cable and satellite TV companies are selling advertising. An example would be your local car dealer. In 1980, $1000 worth of TV advertising might get him 10 to 20 slots on a local independent station for a couple days. Today my local Comcast provider will sell a 30 day block of random 30 second slots with a guarantee of 20% primetime slots and 12 plays an hour for $799. With over 220 commercial channels available, they can sell 40 to 50 of these programs a month easily. Narrow your target by genre or specific network, you will pay more.

It’s not the lack of interest by advertisers for the current bunch of low level commercials, it’s the low cost is why you are seeing more stuff like this of TV today.