my personal blog

February 18, 2006

Digital On-screen Graphics: Pop-ups for Television

Filed under: advertising,rants — Alfonso Surroca @ 12:29 am

Have you noticed your screen real-estate shrinking?

Years ago, networks began placing their network IDs as digital on-screen graphics, nicknamed "bugs", small watermark logos that often appear in the lower right-hand corner of the television broadcast. These began as innocuous, only mildly obtrusive logo watermarks which popped up infrequently during broadcasts to remind viewers which network they were viewing. In an era before time-shifted set-top boxes and on-demand digital cable broadcasts, these little logos did provide some measure of benefit to viewers, allowing channel-surfers to know precisely what network they were watching in an instant. This was how these "bugs" became a Trojan horse for advertising.

From Logos to Advertisements

Once networks realized the potential of these digital on-screen graphics as advertising vehicles, viewers have been losing more and more of their viewing area to these logos-turned-ads. First, a network would stick a small reminder pushing an important coming event it would be broadcasting soon, something viewers might actually want to be reminded of. Even then, these typically took the place of the network ID in the lower right-hand corner, so they weren't that much of a distraction to viewers.

Today, it seems you can't go several minutes without seeing an elaborate, colorful animation slide into view from the bottom of the screen and occupy one-fifth or more of your viewing area for at least a few seconds. Today, these once-innocuous "bugs" have become full-blown miniature advertisements, the television equivalent of the pop-up ads that have become the bane of web users.

The Wave of the Future

How long before networks and advertisers up the ante and begin placing full-blown paid advertisements, not for future network broadcasts, but for whatever the advertiser will pay for? After all, while you can easily change the channel during commercial spots in an effort to bypass unwanted advertisements, you can't exactly change the channel, since the desired show is on, making you a very captive audience. And advertisers drool over a captive audience.

If you think this idea is far fetched, then think back a few years. It wasn't too long ago that television viewers couldn't concieve of these little "bugs" floating on their screen. Furthermore, as more of us download our television shows, traditional spot ads might just become a thing of the past. Advertisers need a way to keep plugging their products during TV shows, and these digital on-screen graphics might just be the way to do this.

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