Monday, July 6, 2009

NASCAR turns Coke Zero 400 race coverage into web ads

We've all seen popup ads on web pages and interstitials and ads inside a blog we're trying to read. Well, NASCAR has brought these ads to our television screens.

I watched the Coke Zero 400 race on July 4th and was amazed at what I saw. It wasn't the mind-boggling speed the cars ran at and it wasn't the awesome camera angles and coverage the video crews provided. No, I was floored by the fact this television program had been turned into a web-like page complete with sponsor ads and in-content ads.

The running data bar or scrolling news bar we've all seen at CNN Headline news or in other races was there. In the past it told us who was in the lead and what car was driven by who; you know, useful stuff. This time it had been enlarged and it wasn't race data that was shown.

A small portion of the data bar had a sponsor logo or TV show slogan sitting in the bottom left corner of the screen. Not so bad and it only changed once in a while. But that was just the start.

Several times the announcer would suddenly say "wouldn't this be a great time for a delicious Subway sandwich" and then the data bar would be filled with a graphics-and-text ad for Subway. Coverage would continue, but we'd have an ad occupying a good portion of the screen. I thought I was looking at a Google Gmail screen with ads along the right edge.

Most insidious, though, was when a large popup screen appeared and a short video feed from inside one of the race cars started playing. We could still see the race, but the announcer had gone silent and the audio was only coming from the popup screen.

We were all very interested as the race car driver was talking to his crew chief at an interesting point in the race. However, it became obivous this wasn't a live feed when the driver looked in his rear view mirror and saw the Burger King sitting in his back seat. This was a commercial! In the normal program!

This happened throughout the race coverage. The new "wide open coverage" let this network state they were showing 100% of the green flag portion of the race but still run commercials in the program screen.

When AdLinea helps clients find the best place to put their sponsored or pay-per-click ads, we recommend the "sweet spots" inside the blog text. Those are proven to yield better results than banner ads and side-of-screen ads like Google. But someone has figured out how to better monetize TV shows, avoid the TiVo or DVR function of cutting out the commercial and getting you to pay attention to an ad the same way they do when they bury an ad inside a blog's text. Genius.

Is this what we should expect from all future TV programs? Forget about product placement inside the program when you can just have a popup appear over top of the program? Should we expect AdSense-like ads to appear on the right hand side of our next sitcom's screen?