Down with TiVo

Marketplace Staff Aug 7, 2006


KAI RYSSDAL: Keeping track of television technology can be a tricky thing. Take TiVo for instance. First, they make a product that lets consumers skip ads. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, they announced they’re starting a new research division to collect ad data. And they’re gonna sell it back to those very broadcasters they irritate so much by letting viewers skip the ads. But one innovation usually begets another. And that’s exactly what economist and commentator Austan Goolsbee’s annoyed about.

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE: I can hear you watching your TV shows at night, your TiVo fast-forwarding through the ads at triple speed BEEP, BEEP, BEEP.

You do it so much that your TiVo is hurting advertisers. And now they’re fighting back.

Take CBS. Evidently people aren’t watching enough of CBS’s TV ads anymore. So they’re invading our refrigerators. They’re going to laser print their ads on 35 million eggs so you can’t TiVo past them. As the president of their marketing group says it’s “intrusive and inclusive. It’s right in your face. You can’t avoid it.”

And that’s a problem for me. See, first of all, our 3-year-old is going to want to pick up those eggs to look at them. So, those ads are going to wind up smashed on our floor. And second, I don’t want to see ads on my eggs.

OK, so I could forget the eggs. But now another company’s invented a new toilet paper dispenser that can play little radio ads while it unrolls.

Evidently the same folks who are not getting people to watch their TV ads are now going to track us down in public restrooms.

And then I come to find out that restroom advertising is possibly the fastest-growing segment of the indoor advertising business.

The MIT Advertising Lab even gives companies a top 10 list of ways to reach people in the bathroom, including the ultimate, The Wizmark Interactive Urinal Communicator. It will flash messages about shaving cream and beer and even talk to you while you do your business.

Yes, it’s getting really ugly out there. Which brings me back to you and your TiVo.

If you don’t stop zipping through those ads, the rest of us will spend the next 10 years wiping egg-vertisements off our floors and using earplugs in the bathroom.

This has got to stop, neighbor. Just sit down and watch the show. If you can’t stand the ads, just act like a regular person and go raid the refrigerator.

RYSSDAL: Austan Goolsbee is professor of economics at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. Hate to tell you professor, I’m keeping my TiVo.

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