Switching before the pitch: Exploring television channel changing before the ads even start
Although much research examines ‘ad zapping’ or channel changing during the commercials, the present work explores preemptive ad avoidance before the commercials begin. Television programs give different ad signals, which could alter rates of preemptive ad avoidance. Ad pods from two hit shows were explored using second-by-second channel-changing data; rates of preemptive ad avoidance were practically important and varied between shows. Inspection of program episodes suggested that the show with more preemptive ad zapping gave clearer ad signals and had more ‘ad safe’ time per episode, that is, there was more time when an ad break would not occur clearly. The data suggest that advertisers should seek unit-specific measures of opportunities to see commercials as such measures become possible with digital distribution of television.