Are there too many ads on TV?

6th April, 2008

Did you know that under current regulations ITV, Channel 4 and Five are only permitted to run 7 minutes of ads per hour (averaged over the day), with a maximum of 12 minutes in peak time on ITV 1?

These rules save us from getting bombarded by ads like they do across the pond. However, Ofcom have recently put forward a proposal to increase the amount of advertising UK broadcasters can show. From an agency stand-point this is a double-headed coin. The increased number of minutes for sale may mean that ITV, Channel 4 and Five will need to decrease the media costs to fill the airtime; and if it's more affordable it means more clients can add TV advertising to the marketing mix.

Satellite and cable channels have slightly different rules and are allowed an average of 9 minutes an hour of ads but many of these stations struggle to fill those minutes and as a consequence it is cheaper to place your TV ads here.

From a viewing stand-point there is a danger that the quality of the adverts will diminish as the current higher media costs have encouraged creativity and investment in the production values - you just need to experience the 'home-made' feel of some ads on the more obscure channels.

Broadcasters understand that having increased minutes to sell could be the beginning of the end for the higher media rates on which their businesses have thrived. With some of their core revenue generators such as junk food and alcohol advertising also facing restrictions, they could end up with more time to advertise fewer products. If this happens we could see more poor quality advertising to fill the extra minutes.

Broadcasters are keen to keep the status quo and if the rules are changed, they are likely to be pressurised to increase the amount of ads they show, however unwilling they may be. The big brand advertisers are also keen to keep things as they are as the current limits work in their favour by increasing the cost of advertising and keeping smaller rivals off the screens.

Personally I enjoy ads. They are often entertaining in their own right (sometimes more than the programmes themselves). I'm not sure I want more ads though, but I do want good quality ads. So if you find yourself looking at advertising your company on TV, don't scrimp on the creative and production costs.

Jason Edge

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