Advertisers long ago discovered that the digital video recorder, which allows users to skip any commercials they want, is not a friend.
Now some marketers are responding with desperate measures: commercials offering viewers incentives to watch.
KFC, part of Yum Brands, introduced a commercial last week that contains a secret code word, visible only by watching the commercial in slow motion on a DVR. (Or by doing a quick Web search, where the spot has been discussed exhaustively.)
Once the secret code is seen, the viewer can go to the KFC Web site, type in the code and receive a prize: a $1 coupon for a Buffalo Snacker sandwich. The commercial was created by Foote Cone & Belding in Chicago, part of the Interpublic Group of Cos., and will run on Fox, NBC and several cable channels through Friday.
In another attempt to encourage viewers not to ignore ads, Home Depot is giving consumers a say in the commercials it runs. Its agency, the Richards Group in Dallas, created three TV commercials to promote the addition of two brands of tractors, Cub Cadet and Toro, to the John Deere tractor line that Home Depot already sells. After watching the three commercials online, users could vote for their favorite from early Saturday, Feb. 18, through late Sunday, Feb. 19. The commercial that garnered the most votes was to be chosen to appear on TV beginning today.
Home Depot was encouraged by the results: 453,700 votes were cast at the Web site.
"Consumers are in control these days and want to pick and choose what they watch," said Roger Adams, senior vice president for marketing at Home Depot in Atlanta.
All three commercials featured an actor and actress playing a couple visiting a Home Depot where the three brands of tractors were displayed. The winning spot, "Indecision," which drew 171,188 votes, was perhaps the funniest of the three; the actor is shown taking so long to decide among the brands that he is still at the store, alone, at closing time.
The Dentyne line of gum sold by Cadbury Schweppes is also seeking to involve consumers in its TV advertising with a twist on the Home Depot idea: one commercial, with three potential endings.
The Dentyne commercial, scheduled to begin running today, shows a young man offering two kinds of Dentyne Ice gum to two attractive young women. The spot "hints at the possibilities for something to happen," said Linda Mayer, a spokeswoman for Cadbury Schweppes Americas Confectionery, and ends by encouraging viewers to visit the Dentyne Web site and vote for one of the three endings.
The incentive for casting a vote? A free pack of new Dentyne Ice Soft Chew gum. The Dentyne agency is McCann Erickson Worldwide in New York, part of the McCann Worldgroup unit of Interpublic.