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Evolution of the Commercial Break

Tivo and DVRs have finally pushed the TV networks into innovating the standard commercial break, known to TV execs as the "advertising pod" (no relation to an iPod). Although local stations and cable channels have always had more freedom in putting together commerical breaks, now that the industry leaders and changing their rules, we should start to see a lot more experiments. Looks like we'll have to use the pause button to make our own breaks in the future. TV Ad Rules Are Challenged By 'Pod' Busters by Brian Steinberg (subscription required)

TV executives have begun to bend the rules: Some now give preferred positions in the ad pods to advertisers with product-placement deals in shows, in the belief that a well-placed ad helps emphasize the product. Networks are tentatively trying other new things, such as the five-second spot. Earlier this year, several networks ran a five-second ad for General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac in the middle of commercial pods. To get the spot on TV, however, GM often had to purchase a separate 30-second ad in the same pod, a GM spokeswoman says. ...

Some ad firms are coming up with novel proposals for their clients. These include grouping several commercials together in a single pod to play off the theme of the program. For example, a rental-car company might band together with a hotel chain to air their ads together during a program about travel, suggests Joe Uva, president and chief executive of Omnicom Group Inc.'s OMD, an ad-space-buying firm.

Other possibilities: running never-before-seen footage for a movie during an ad break, or showing multiple ads over several pods that add up to tell a single story. "The issue is about what the content inside the pod of tomorrow will look like," says Mr. Uva.