Can you name five t.v. commercials off the top of your head? How about five newspaper ads? A few years ago, I used to ask this question whenever I gave a talk on advertising. Few people could recall print or radio ads, but almost everybody could remember some of that year’s hottest t.v. commercials. But those days are long gone. Since we have become a TiVo-obsessed nation, a full 2/3 of us with digital video recording capabilities simply fast forward through the spots.

This is great for those of us who are impatient and prefer our programming commercial-free, but it presents obvious problems to the networks who are able to provide that programming by charging advertisers to put their messages in front of us consumers. Today, advertisers are demanding to know not just what the show’s rating is, but how many people actually viewed their commercials. We are all waiting to see how this new ratings system will unfold.

In the meantime, some savvy advertisers have started putting secret messages in their spots encouraging viewers to pause their TiVos and get clues.