After Maturing on Web, Interactive Content Is Returning to Living Rooms

The Future of Branded Entertainment Can Help Brands in a Socially Driven World

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It's become clear that we now live in a multiscreen universe. The TV, which used to be the most ubiquitous screen in the world, has made leaps and bounds in display technology, making it prime for enjoying large and beautiful content and perfect for communal viewing. We watch TV shows together because of the enjoyment of commentary and the shared experience. The smartphone, tablet and computer screens on the other hand, are for viewing personal content. It's not the same lean-back experience we get when lounging in the living room having a weekly "Glee" viewing party. It's our source of input, our right-hand technology and the future device for navigating the TV.

So how do we bring it together? And what does that mean for the future of advertising on TV? I've been contemplating these questions lately as our agency has been collaborating with Team Detroit and Undercurrent to help create a socially interactive TV campaign for Ford, called "Focus Rally: America." The live-streamed web series allows users to directly impact the outcome of the show, rewarding viewership while using relevant product placement to showcase Ford's newest line of vehicles. Social media is not an additional component to the campaign. It's baked in and complementary to the viewing experience.

It's here that we see the future of branded entertainment come into vision. Breaking from the age-old tradition of 30-second TV spots, brands now have the opportunity to create socially driven TV campaigns that give viewers a reason and reward for paying attention to advertising on TV. Startups such as GetGlue, for instance, are using discounts and stickers to reward viewers for "checking in" to entertainment. And soon enough, with the advent of Google TV and the Android marketplace for TV, advertisers will be able to use data as a form of addressing their target audiences in as niche a way as they'd like. Just think: algorithmic advertising based on each viewer's preferences. Less interruption and more integration.

Different sectors of entertainment are already gearing up for the climb towards interactive TV. The NHL, a leader for sports entertainment in digital media, understands the importance of its audience's involvement online, as well as the benefits of providing ample media space for advertisers. Fans can immerse themselves beyond the rink with live-streamed content from the web as well as on-demand and out-of-market classic games. TV apps such as Boxee are spearheading the integration of social media with televised content, allowing viewers to share content and get recommendations from their friends on Facebook and Twitter. And as we start to see the shift in focus of web-based social activity move towards the TV, it will be interesting to see just how advertising creatives will rethink and redesign brand storytelling to involve an interactive and already socially charged audience.

Sandra Hong is marketing manager at Rokkan, San Francisco.
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