ABC has announced at the OMMA conference that they will be integrating TV commercials directly into programming. A simple example as described in today's MediaPost by Wayne Friedman is having a commercial that is playing on the TV in a living room set on a popular show like "According to Jim" suddenly expand to play on the full screen. While this is a dream come true for media planners and Mike Shaw, the president of sales and marketing for ABC that want more exposure and advertising revenue, it is a viewers worst nightmare. Stephen McPherson from ABC Entertainment also endorsed the idea while ignoring the fact that they are ABC Entertainment. The agency community, the champion of the consumer (not), also endorsed the idea with Shari Anne Brill, a SVP from media buying mega-firm Carat, voicing the hope that producers will play along vs. standing up for the viewers that would like to wretch at any moment.
If ABC wants to destroy advertising supported television, this is the path. By making advertising more intrusive, more annoying and less appealing than the programming in which they appear the broadcast networks will inspire many viewers to flee to programming that they control. My view is that if ABC wants to intertwine advertising and programming then really do it. Find common themes between the broadcast and the advertiser. Promote programming that attracts individuals that want to explore those themes and be up front in the process regarding who is paying the bill. The ABC approach is half baked. It will result in a loss of viewers commercial free channels such as HBO, Disney and Showtime. Commercial free is significantly more appealing to "Generation Free." (my name for the next generation of consumers).