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TiVo pushes new marketing buttons

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TiVo changed the way Americans watch television after it began doing business in 1997. Now it’s looking to change the way Americans are marketed to.

The company has formed the Interactive Direct Response Advertising Group and hired Robert Barnett, a senior marketing consultant to infomercial giant Guthy-Renker, to be the group’s senior director. His responsibilities include managing TiVo’s relationship with WorldLink Ventures, a direct-response advertising sales representative for the company’s interactive advertising platform.

“We’re trying to create the next generation vehicle for direct response,” Barnett said. “The telephone is kind of old-school now, and so we’re replacing that with a mechanism that is in people’s hands and that people can use to vote, and buy and generate leads: the remote control. It feels natural to people to express themselves through the remote control.”

Barnett’s team is currently focused on five different ways to reach customers. The principle avenue they use to reach customers is TiVo’s main page, which its 4.2 million members view about 4.8 times a day. There is a small piece of real estate that is sold to three different companies each week so content can be rotated throughout the week.

TiVo has also made deals with marketers to use television commercials as springboards for interactivity. For example, during a spot, a window will pop up for those who opt in, asking that particular viewer if he or she wants more information on the product. If the answer is “yes” and the pop-up is clicked, viewers access a “showcase” offering more product information. It also allows for video downloads and product DVDs.

“We include fast-forward tagging, so if someone is fast-forwarding through the commercials, a window will still pop up with the brand name [displayed] and a call to action,” Barnett said.

Additionally, whenever a customer uses TiVo to record a program—which happens millions of times a week—and the program is played back, a window appears asking the customer if he or she wants to save the program or delete it. On that same window, there is an advertising window that is sold for contextually related content for each particular program.

“More than 5 percent of our customers record ‘The Biggest Loser,’ ” Barnett said. “So if you’re Jenny Craig or Nutrasystems, you can put your ad right on that page, an ad that can be actionable. We’re basically remarketing all of the content on television in our own platform.”

TiVo also aggregates all its advertisers into one major showcase that costumers can use to search for information on products that pique their interest.

The last piece of the current marketing puzzle for TiVo is called Product Watch. Users who have interest in specific products can sign up to receive information via TiVo whenever new advertising information comes up in that particular category. Users can even be brand-specific. “One of the goals is to be unobtrusive, and this solved some of that,” Barnett said.

TiVo hopes to soon have a Click to Buy button so advertisers can get sales directly from TiVo. “Marketers like leads, but they love sales even more,” Barnett said. “That button is our big push right now.”

Down the road, Barnett sees TiVo working with television producers to embed pop-ups in programs for viewers to opt in to. “That’s TiVo 2.0,” he said, “but definitely possible. Product development is working on ways to make programming actionable. The future holds that in store.”

Barnett also said that he predicts in the next five to 10 years, people will expect content and advertising to be interactive and actionable. “Technology is catching up to the dreams we’ve all had for it for years,” he said.

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