Atomic Direct, LTD

Tech Needs TV

Does HD Help TV Advertising? Not really.

Posted by Doug Garnett January - 21 - 2011 - Friday

Wayne Friedman noted in a recent article in MediaPost that advertisers have been slow to embrace HD for their TV ads. And that got me thinking.

I love HD programming – gorgeous, beautiful, watchable. And, good for many sports because they tend to operate horizontally.

But there’s nothing about HD that makes messages more powerful for advertising. I’m sure that aficionado’s would argue with me – claim that pixel densities deliver more information, etc, etc.

What I’ve found first hand is that’s meaningless. There’s some value in layering more things on-screen — as a DRTV practitioner we can use more type more to emphasize points so details are clear. But our results weren’t suffering before and the measurable impact of these advantages is negligible – probably so small it’s not detectable.

So HD doesn’t help us make messages clearer. There is, of course, an “anti-positive”. If a high tech company (for example) chose NOT to create their ads in HD, it would speak negative volumes about them. But that’s not the same as being able to use HD to enhance messages.

The 16:9 Aspect Ratio Isn’t Great for All Products. We work with tools (hammers, wrenches, drills, …). Some are long horizontally. But many require vertical action and to be displayed vertically. When we’re dealing vertically, the 4:3 window was preferable. So the impact of HD is it forces us to dress and treat a huge chunk of screen that’s immaterial to the communication.

Probably 1/2 of products work best vertically and 1/2 work best horizontally. Almost 100% look best when you mix up a combination of framings. But, some products can do okay forced into a 16:9 window. Net out, 25% to 35% of all products are hurt by HD.

These considerations are important because HD has made advertising production much more difficult.

About 60% of the TV’s where any ad is seen are still SD. So, we have to produce for a dual format – it must look great in SD and in HD. (Easy to say, complexity to do.) Merely editing in HD slows things down. Systems had become pretty much “render wait” free. But, now HD adds back into edit days a series of 20 to 40 minute blocks of time waiting for HD renders.

Once the ad’s done, we have to deal with trafficking tapes. HD dubs and distribution are massively expensive compared with SD (about 4X to 6X the cost). And, there’s not an HD standard. Each station/network has different requirements & different equipment – especially in local markets where equipment chaos and standards are a massive headache.

So why HD? HD is absolutely gorgeous when it works – which pleases the aesthete in us all. All the best camera’s today are HD (so we never shoot anything else). Advertisers SHOULD be doing more HD. And, we don’t really have a choice – consumers are buying new TV’s, we need to make use of them.

But back to Wayne’s point, it’s understandable that advertisers are slow to adopt the format. Our reality is that HD adds chaos without adding a corresponding benefit.

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett

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Doug Garnett, DRTV and Technology Industry Expert

Doug Garnett is founder and CEO of DRTV agency Atomic Direct and a leading expert on innovative uses of DRTV, infomercials and other in-depth TV and non-TV messages to build brand and drive sales.

Doug has been working in and around the technology field for 27 years. After starting in aerospace, he spent 5 years selling and marketing supercomputers. Since shifting to advertising, his clients have included AT&T, IBM, Apple, Disney Mobile, Ugobe, Presto, and Netpliance.

Doug sits on the editorial board of Response Magazine, is an adjunct professor of general advertising at Portland State University, and is a member of the Jordan-Whitney Greensheet Panel.

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