Another aspect of the media environment, which is important to advertisers, is the problem of clutter, which has been defined as the amount of advertising in a medium.71 However, for television, clutter is often viewed as including all the nonpro-gram material that appears in the broadcast environment—commercials, promotional
messages for shows, public service announcements (PSAs), and the like. Clutter is of increasing concern to advertisers since there are so many messages in various media competing for the consumer's attention. Half of the average magazine's pages contain ads and in some publications the ratio of ads to editorial content is even higher. On average, around a quarter of a broadcast hour on TV is devoted to commercials, while most radio stations carry an average of 10 to 12 minutes of commercial time per hour. The high level of advertising often annoys consumers and makes it difficult for ads to communicate effectively.
Clutter has become a major concern among television advertisers as a result of increases in nonprogram time and the trend toward shorter commercials. While the 30-second commercial replaced 60-second spots as the industry standard in the 1970s, many advertisers are now using 15-second spots. The advertising industry continues to express concern over the highly cluttered viewing environment on TV, as the amount of clutter increased as much as 30 percent during the 1990s. An industry-sponsored study found that commercial clutter on the television broadcast networks reached record levels during the 2001 season in some day parts such as early morning, daytime, and local news.72 The amount of nonprogramming time ranged from just over 16 minutes per hour during prime time to nearly 21 minutes per hour in daytime. The study also found that clutter levels are even higher on many cable networks and during syndicated programs. The problem is even greater during popular shows, to which the networks add more commercials because they can charge more. And, of course, advertisers and their agencies perpetuate the problem by pressuring the networks to squeeze their ads into top-rated shows with the largest audiences.
Advertisers and agencies want the networks to commit to a minimum amount of program time and then manage the nonprogram portion however they see fit. If the networks wanted to add more commercials, it would come out of their promos, PSAs, or program credit time. The problem is not likely to go away, however, and advertisers will continue to search for ways to break through the clutter, such as using humor, celebrity spokespeople, or novel, creative approaches.73
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