Alan Dee: If you just fast forward, the ad breaks will get even longer


Apparently it’s aknowledged by the creative cabals in charge of the advertising industry that the traditional TV spot is in the toilet.

I’m not referring to the fact that large proportions of the viewing public are prone to pop off to the smallest room as the ads appear, possibly as a consequence of putting the kettle on at a convenient commercial break during an earlier programme – no, it’s just that it’s getting increasingly difficult to convince advertisers to shell out significant sums on something that will most likely be ignored by the target audience.

Not ignored as in viewed and rejected, you understand, but ignored as in never seen at all. That’s because more and more of us timeshift our telly, recording what we want on whatever fancy set-up we may have and then watching when it suits us.

To some people, that means recording every episode of a series and then devouring it in a marathon sitting. To others, it’s all about pressing the button to zip through the padding and the repetition that bulk out so many shows these days.

But to all of us, it seems, it certainly means pressing fast forward when the ads are on.

There have been some obvious responses from the braces and bow tie brigade.

Programme sponsorship is the most obvious, and possibly the least successful. Nobody ever remembers the name of the sponsor, but I most assuredly know that I never want to contemplate any sort of cruise after an overdose of clips of smiling families afloat bookending some of my favourite shows.

Product placement seems to be slowly spreading, too, as TV follows the example of cinema and cashes in on the potential of the props department.

Another reaction seems to have been to make the ad breaks even longer. It used to be accepted that you’d have to endure no more than a handful of ads in a strictly-segregated two minute slot halfway through the programme.

Now a popular show could feature an ad break that goes on for six or seven minutes – and that’s not counting a couple of plugs for another show that might be added into the mix. Never mind popping off to the loo, I could quite easily pop off and have a shower.

More irritatingly, the ad breaks don’t seem to keep regular time any more.

It’s not unknown for an ad break to arrive before a programme has really got into its stride. Are we supposed to be taken by surprise when the ads cut in after less than 10 minutes, and sit through them because we’re too stunned at their gall that we can’t reach for the remote?

No, we’re taking back that time and cutting a 30-minute show down to something like two thirds of that.

But if we’re all dodging the messages, how long will they – and the money they provide – keep on coming?