AMC Fires Off 17 Chevy Ads in 15 Mins: Why Viewers Will Block Them

AMC Fires Off 17 Chevy Ads in 15 Mins: Why Viewers Will Block Them

Summary: AMC is soaking its online users in repetitive ads (which shouldn’t make advertisers happy either) and garnering awful reviews for its online and mobile offerings. Media executives are mistaken in thinking that subscribers won’t skip online ads, even more efficiently than many have done with DVRs. I share an example of how trivial this online ad skipping is, and data about why consumers may feel justified in skipping AMC’s ads.

Despite a small TV audience (574,000 according to Nielsen) the Halt and Catch Fire (HCF) 1st Season Finale gives us a great platform to compare the TV and Online Video advertising world of AMC Networks, which has in the past couple of years put out a host of hit shows and shown great performance for its shareholders.

Here’s the data for the HCF Finale as it showed on AMC in real time (this comes from the wonderful folks at Civolution which recognizes and tracks advertising across all major TV channels in the US and many other countries in real time):

There were 16.58 minutes of advertising, across 35 different ads.  There were 21 different advertisers (including AMC itself, for its upcoming show promos), with DirecTV having 3 ads and 7 advertisers with 2 ads each. By the way, AMC claims on its website that “AMC carries among the fewest commercials per hour of any basic cable channel”. It’s not a new claim – several other sites refer to this claim going back as far as January of 2007 – and based on subscriber and user comments and data like the above, it is hard to believe this being true in any way other than if stretching the meaning of “among”, or “fewest”.  One complainant jokingly suggested that AMC stands for “Always More Commercials“.

The volume of ads plus the nature of the audience might be reasons why (as written by Steven Perlberg of the WSJ) 3 of the top 7 most-skipped (commercial-wise) TV shows according to TiVo are from AMC – Mad Men (1 – 73% ads skipped), Halt and Catch Fire (3 – 69% skipped) and the Walking Dead (7 – 66%)!

You’re saying “I GET IT! AMC’s TV audience (including for HCF) don’t like ads and generally skip them! So what was the experience like for those that decided instead to watch online (not for free mind you! after logging in via their TV provider login…)??

These people actually saw slightly fewer ads – we did two tests on different PCs, one had 31 ads taking 15.5 minutes and the other 31 ads for 14.5 minutes. Ok, that’s not so bad, right? But which ads and advertisers? Here are the two sets:

In the second case, we saw some local TV ads (here in the Denver/Boulder area), but not in the first. What was quite amazing though in both cases (more so in the first) was the extent of advertiser repetition.

We saw 17 Chevy ads in 15 minutes of advertising (!!!!)

That’s 8 1/2 minutes of Chevy ads, more than half of all the ad time! In addition, there were 9 Intel ads in an hour, 6 of them the same – and in the second case the latter same ad showed up 5 times (Intel – Coach Crawford). In both cases the same Bank of America (Cash Rewards) ad showed up 5 times, pretty much in each ad break.

This experience is not isolated to these two computers. There are plenty of examples online of people complaining not only about AMC’s tendencies, but this is having an impact on the advertisers as well.

AMC’s mobile app has a current rating of 1.5 stars (out of 5) and includes these nuggets for advertisers (my bold):

“Had to repeatedly sign in and watch the same commercials over and over and over and over… In addition I will never buy any of the products that were advertised… there is no way to skip forward over what you already saw (probably so they can show the commeicials [sic] again). AMC has some terrific shows but their app is a total joke; why bother. ” (weiden1)

I now officially hate: Intel, and I probably had to watch that spot close to 15 times. If I’m I the marketing team at Intel I Requesting $ back for those ads. Don’t think they intend to waste that many views in one person, and it did their brand more harm than good. “ (Guy who tried to watch Turn)

Twitter has some of the same kinds of feedback for AMC and its advertisers:


Skipping regular TV ads if you have a DVR, is simple. Skipping video ads online can also be easy, but it requires a little bit more work (though not a lot more) today. I fear that if networks like AMC keep annoying consumers with repetitive ads, they may choose to opt out by installing adblocking software like Adblock or Adblock Plus, and it will hasten the mainstream adoption of these technologies, ultimately harming the entire publishing ecosystem. The same is true of repetitive retargeting in display advertising – it turns consumers off and has negative spillover effects.

To see how simple it is to avoid the AMC ads, however, here’s a look at how people would very simply block all of these online ads using Adblock Plus in Chrome:

It’s a supremely strange situation when Advertisers might be better off having their ads blocked to save themselves from consumer backlash!

AMC should take a hard look at it’s online/app ads and reduce repetition – and its advertisers should ask for unique user counts and not just impressions, when assessing whether they’re getting what they are paying for on these ads.