Media Practice: Expanding Sphere or Sliding Bubble?

By Thought Leaders Archives
Cover image for  article: Media Practice: Expanding Sphere or Sliding Bubble?

In the media profession I believe there’s been an unspoken but widely shared belief that each new development incorporates and builds on the best practices that have already been created and proven to serve the advertiser’s interests. Sort of like an expanding sphere, incorporating the best of what’s been done while encompassing new techniques -- particularly those made possible by digital media. But now I wonder if this is actually the case.

An amusing recent article in Media Post (“Stop The Madness! Buffering Is Driving Us Crazy”) talks about “buffer rage” among video consumers. It references a study of 1,000 consumers by IneoQuest that found streaming video “buffering” (delayed, stalled or degraded video delivery) ignited feelings similar to road rage. Having not experienced this phenomenon myself, I decided to do a little research on my own by streaming a bunch of TV programs and focusing my attention on how advertiser’s commercials were coming across. What I found was not so amusing.

My research was conducted using my broadband Internet provider (one of the biggest in the US) and included a wide range of video from high-rated current primetime programs offered by broadcast and cable networks, through popular reruns of all genres, to very long-tail, low-rated cult shows, to movies that included commercial breaks. Here’s what I found:

  1. About half the time, commercials are delayed before running, often up to 15 seconds after the program segment ends.
  2. At least 20% of the time, a commercial that is running stalls and stutters, sometimes so badly the words can’t be understood.
  3. In about 10% of the cases, the commercial has degraded definition; the images are blurry and the edges of figures are badly defined and pixelated.
  4. Also about 10% of the time, the video stream simply stalls waiting for a commercial to load from the server; there’s no way to proceed, other than finally (after waiting 5 minutes or so) to reload the page in my browser, after which the entire commercial break gets repeated and one hopes the stream doesn’t stall again at the same commercial. It often it does. (At this point I was beginning to understand the concept of buffer rage.)
  5. Frequently, especially in the automotive category, I would see commercials for direct competitors within the same commercial pod.
  6.  But even assuming that the above problems did not occur, maybe the most troubling discovery was that I was being served the identical commercials over and over again, within the same program, sometimes within the same break. And the same tiny pool of commercials across the mix of shows and movies I watched. If an advertiser’s worst enemy had contrived this, they could not have done a better job of turning me off the brand.

We now violate so many principles that we used to take as given in delivering video commercials:

  • Flawless transitions between programs and commercials
  • Commercials that run exactly as produced and approved by the client
  • Commercials that meet the highest standards in production value
  • Careful monitoring of competitive separation
  • Intelligent scheduling of the advertiser’s commercial pool to avoid excess frequency

After looking at the actual situation in streaming video today, maybe we need to alter the assumed image of current media practice. Instead of an expanding sphere is it becoming a sliding bubble, where we chase after the new while ignoring what we already know to be important practices -- at the advertiser’s peril?

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