Why aren’t there more prime-time infomercials?

Posted by Rob Walker on October 30, 2008
Posted Under: Advertising

We watched about one minute of the half-hour Obamamercial last night. It looked kind of boring, and as it happens we’ve already voted, so that was enough. In listening to and reading the rave reviews later, I was interested to hear that the total cost was, as I understand it, somewhere around $4 million or $5 million, for both production and air time on multiple networks.

I know everybody says that’s a lot of money, and for a political campaign it is. But in the larger scheme of corporate advertising, it really isn’t. Thirty seconds during the Super Bowl is more than $2 million, not counting production. More to the point, for a company like Nike, or Wal-Mart, $4 million isn’t much. Or how about Exxon Mobile: They just posted $14.8 billion in profits — for the quarter. When you’re looking at numbers like that, a few million bucks is peanuts.

I’m not arguing that, say, some oil company should take a half hour of slick propaganda time on a network near you. I’m just idly curious why it doen’t happen.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

My guess would be that more prime time infomercials would be counterproductive for the advertisers and the networks. If they appeared with any regularity, people would tune out and hate the suits that preempted their favorite shows. I’m not sure if this was a productive strategy for the Obama campaign, but it was probably a handy way to blow some of the huge amounts of money the campaign has.

Written By fontgoddess on October 30th, 2008 @ 11:07 am

Really, $5 million is not a big spend for the reach this long-form ad received. Through all sources of spending, each campaign will likely spend upward of $1 billion – probably closer to $2 or $3 billion.

Five mil is a drop in the bucket, just as it would be to Exxon in your example, and this may have been effective beyond just the impressions received during the live broadcast. The move generated a lot of discussion, including this blog post.

Written By Scott on October 31st, 2008 @ 3:22 pm

“it was probably a handy way to blow some of the huge amounts of money the campaign has.” = that sounds right to me.

Written By Rob Walker on November 1st, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

Rob, there aren’t more prime time infomercials for one reason – no one would watch
them. Audiences are already Tivo – ing and remote controlling :30/15-second commercials out of existence. Most of us aren’t even willing to put up with a :03-05 –
second pre-roll before watching a YouTube video.

Instead, some companies have learned that providing online content – useful information that improves people’s lives- s a better way to promote their product.

Obama knew that those watching the game were – as a group – unlikely to have ever partaken in his online messaging assault. And -what better way to shore up his “I Really Do Love America Message” than during an American ballgame.



Written By BonnieL on November 2nd, 2008 @ 9:36 am

“There aren’t more prime time infomercials for one reason – no one would watch

That depends on the actual content.

Written By Rob Walker on November 2nd, 2008 @ 6:00 pm

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