Are Streamers and Soaps a Winning Combination for Advertisers?

By Ed Martin Report Archives
Cover image for  article: Are Streamers and Soaps a Winning Combination for Advertisers?

And just like that … I'm starting to pay attention to commercials again. The credit goes to Peacock … and to Days of our Lives, a long-running soap opera that will mark its 60th anniversary in 2025.

I never had an issue with commercial breaks in broadcast programs; maybe because I grew up with them, or maybe because they were often as engaging as much of the content they were inserted into. But like most people, over the years I came to accept and embrace the many advances in technology that seemed to be designed to compromise the advertising business. From remote controls that encourage channel surfing to pay-cable, VCRs, DVRs and streaming, it has since the '80s become increasingly easy to avoid commercial breaks.

I'm watching ads anew because of a sequence of events that have brought them back into my life in a way I didn't see coming. The credit goes to smart decision-making at Peacock and a questionable decision by NBC, which about one year ago stopped airing Days of our Lives, the last soap opera on its once dynamic daytime schedule. (In the New York market NBC replaced Days, which it had telecast since 1965, with dated reruns of Dateline: NBC.)

Peacock picked up Days for one year. Then it renewed the show for two more.

Since the early years of this millennium I have marveled at the ongoing maneuvers of broadcast executives to marginalize and then terminate daily daytime dramas, often noting that they represented the only program format that remained exclusive to their medium while cable and streaming continued to produce competitive (and often superior) comedy, drama, news and sports programming. But once Days migrated to Peacock that was no longer true. (Now, it pains me to note that there is nothing broadcast television can call its own.)

I feared the worst when Days moved, because we are creatures of habit -- and watching daily soap operas on broadcast television (where they began as highly profitable platforms to effectively sell household products) is as habitual as TV watching gets. Personally, I thought I would lose touch with it, as I usually had it on in my home office while working. I mean, during a busy day seeking out a show on a streaming platform and then watching it takes a bit more thought and effort than just leaving one's TV on and letting it do all the work. And because my Peacock plan includes ads, which I never focused on while watching the show on NBC, I thought that would ultimately kill my enthusiasm.

I was wrong on both counts.

Admittedly, I don't necessarily watch every episode of Days on Peacock … but I didn't see them all on NBC, either. I do, however, watch often enough to keep up with the drama of it all. (Bo is alive! Victor is dead! Vivian is back!) And when I watch it, I watch the commercials, too. This is not as torturous as it sounds. Commercial breaks during Days are generally one minute or less, and there are some blue-chip advertisers in the mix. I remember a time when ads on streamers were cheap, cheesy, repetitive and painful to sit through. I'm not sure if its random circumstance or the result of smart people communicating the need for improvements, but the commercials during Days largely hold my attention. (Sometimes I don't even scroll through Instagram while they are on.)

In addition, I find myself engaged by Peacock's Pause Ads -- those still-image ads that appear on screen when one pauses a program to do the things we used to do during broadcast commercial breaks, like raiding the refrigerator, using the bathroom or, these days, tending to an "urgent" matter on one's phone. I sometimes pause the show simply to see what ad will pop up. Some, like those pictured on this page (including T-Mobile, TRESemme, Raymour & Flanigan and xfinity), wisely play with the fact that they can be looked at and processed like those in magazines. They don't fly by; nor do they annoy or bore viewers who may not appreciate them. On the interactive front, they are custom made for folks who can't resist QR codes.

And so it is that one of the oldest forms of television entertainment is being used on a relatively new platform to revitalize and refresh advertising -- the very industry that supported the medium from its very beginning. Further, my understanding is that Days of our Lives has done well on Peacock -- certainly well enough to warrant a renewal -- and is bringing new subscribers to the service.

Now, it's up to the creative team at Days to keep them coming.

I'd like to see the show loosen up and become a bit more adult in its storytelling -- after all, it is no longer restricted by broadcast standards, and I doubt advertisers would complain, given what they are up against on various forms of digital media. And I'd like to think that if the day ever comes when CBS and ABC decide that they would be better served by reruns of old news programs than by contemporary soap operas on their daytime schedules that their parent companies will be smart enough to move them over to their respective streaming platforms and follow the Peacock model.

Above all else, I'd like to see the advertising community take further advantage of the creative opportunities that streaming platforms are making possible -- and perhaps find ways to transfer what they are learning and doing over to their broadcast partners.

Posted at MediaVillage through theThought Leadershipself-publishing platform.

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