September 24, 2006
The Industry Tensions Over HD Commercials

For those interested in the development of high-definition television, a potentially significant event happened this past week at the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau conference in New York City.

Manning Field, the senior vice-president for Chase Bank, made a compelling speech asking for even more high-definition adoption on television because his company is starting to develop all of their advertisements in high-definition.

TelevisionWeek's James Hibberd writes a compelling piece about the struggle between advertisers and content producers/networks regarding the high-definition argument. As Hibberd writes, "Mr. Field's stance is a twist on a common theme among television executives." Chase is relatively rare in its decision to produce all of its advertisements in high-definition, since almost all ads are still shot in standard definition. According to Hibberd, a summer AdWeek report says that 99 percent of ads are still shot in standard.

Hibberd admits his own confusion as to why there has not been significant advertising interest in switching to high-definition, since the format in which most ads were shot and the short duration of ads mean that it would not be a significant cost increase to film in high-def.

And, since the majority of primetime series are now shot in high definition, Hibberd points out that, "when the program goes to a break, the TV image shrinks due to pillar boxes appearing on the sides o the screen and the picture quality becomes significantly grainy compared with the primary programming. In the age of the digital video recorder, the dramatic change practically begs viewers to fast-forward until the HD content returns."

Hibberd quotes Field as saying that the problem is that a lot of consumers have "drunk the HD Kool-Aid," no offense to Fred Raley (sorry for the inside joke), but that a lot of people making decisions as advertisers may not have HD at home and may not personally realize how un-sexy these standard-definition commercials are when watching them on a high-definition program.

The article is worth a read, and Hibberd's focus on the weekly developments of high-definition are a great resource for those interested in the adoption of HD and the various cultural struggles currently involved with adoption of the technology--yet another aspect of convergence culture and the confusing that is raised anytime change comes about in the media industry.