DTV Transition ads are confusing, ineffective.

The National Association of Broadcasters has commissioned 30 second advertisements meant to warn consumers about the impending shift from analog to digital only television transmissions.

This DTV transition will render analog TV over-the-air broadcasts — those received by TVs connected to antennas — dark when the switch takes place in February 2009, a little more than a year away.

Here is one of the ads:

Note: I couldn’t embed the national spot. It’s available here. (It’s just as bad.)

Awareness ads are necessary as most people don’t understand the DTV conversion and how it affects them. But, these particular ads don’t help. They are confusing and ineffective for two reasons:

  • The call to action is indirect. You don’t want people to visit a website, you want them to buy $50 converter boxes. This is not clearly explained in the ad.
  • The target audience for these ads are older, old-fashioned consumers that will not connect with these ads. These are the majority of people that still use over-the-air (OTA) TV. They are likely not to have Internet access or be moved by flashy graphics.

Instead, these ads should say: “Your television will stop working February 2009 if you receive TV signals over-the-air. TVs with rabbit-ears type antennas or TVs connected to an antenna on your roof are types of TVs that will stop working February 2009. You need to purchase a $50 DTV converter box available at local electronics retailers before February 2009. If you pay to receive television over cable or satellite, you do not need to purchase this converter box. If you are confused by this message, call this number or visit this website for clarification.” They should have CLEAR, NON-MOTION visuals that are easily processed by the elderly that still receive OTA broadcasts.

It’s odd. You’d think that the NAB with all its elderly staff would be able to understand this. (That was intended as a sarcastic jibe against NAB’s antiquated ways and opinions.)

PS. Here’s the punch-line: I first saw one of the NAB DTV transition ads on CNN — a cable network! I understand the NAB is happy to get as much free exposure it can, but people that can receive CNN telecasts do NOT NEED A CONVERTER BOX! Talk about adding to the confusion.

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5 Responses to DTV Transition ads are confusing, ineffective.

  1. Jay says:

    “In fact, broadcast digital is so much better that by law…”

    What a terribly confusing statement. You are so right on with this post.

  2. dkzody says:

    We have a friend who works for a local tv station, and they are experiencing problems because viewers are calling wanting to know how much longer the station will be on the air. Even some of my high school students were lamenting the demise of tv. When I explained it to them, they said, “that’s not what those ads on tv say.” Yep. confusing for all.

  3. kfarr says:

    @dkzody: Wow, it’s crazy to hear that the TV station is receiving complaints directly! Maybe someone will whip up an ad that makes a little more sense.

    @Jay: That is a hilarious insertion. “…that, by law, …?” Why did they feel it necessary to inject “by law” into that statement? Besides, it wasn’t made into a law because the government felt the quality is so much better, it was made into a law because the FCC wanted to mandate the clearing of the frequency by a set date so they could sell the frequency for other purposes.

  4. Richard Campagne says:

    Yep! I’m one of the old guys. Our cable provider tells me that we will need to buy a cable box for each TV after 2008. Soooooo! I’m having a hard time understanding. Will I receive the signal to operate my OLD tv’s. Seems all these people want is more money. Again the cable coming into our home (Time Warner) should work with our OLD TV’S with out a speacil converter box.

  5. kfarr says:

    @Richard: Your cable will continue to work unaffected. If you have a cable box, that will continue to work fine. If you don’t have a cable box, but you are connected to the cable (and you use your TV to flip through the channels) you’ll be fine too. You don’t need to buy anything new.

    The only case where you need to buy the much talked about ‘digital converter box’ is if you do NOT have cable television or satellite connected to a TV — in this case you probably have ‘rabbit ears’ style antennas or a TV antenna on your roof. For these non-cable or satellite TVs you WILL need a converter box.

    Like you said, perhaps Time Warner is just trying to make more money by preying on people’s confusion by claiming that you need to purchase new cable boxes. That is simply not true unless they are transitioning to a new cable infrastructure, for example fiber-optic delivery instead of copper cables. But, I don’t think this is your case.

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