XM, Samsung, Pioneer Open the Door to Interactive Transactions

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NEW YORK ( -- Push the button, buy the product direct from the ad. That’s always been the holy grail for TV advertising and now it’s coming -- to radio.
Samsung's Helix and Pioneer's Inno XM-enabled portable MP3 players.

In two weeks, XM Satellite Radio will begin shipping to retailers a pair of new XM-enabled portable MP3 players. In addition to recording and time-shifting capabilities, the devices -- the Helix from Samsung and Inno from Pioneer -- will feature a button users can push to “bookmark” songs they like when they hear them on the radio. Later, when users dock the player to an Internet-connected port, the marked songs will be bought and automatically downloaded from Napster, thanks to a relationship XM has with the music service.

It’s not a stretch to see the same push-and-purchase function made available for advertisers. While neither XM nor Sirius are anxious to disclose their plans for forthcoming hardware and technology, there are hints that interactivity will be a major component -- and one that benefits both consumers and advertisers.

“Our next generation of products coming out in the next two weeks will be an XM-enabled MP3 player with, in the simplest terms, that ‘buy’ button,” D. Scott Karnedy, senior VP-ad sales for XM Satellite Radio, said at a radio panel last week. “The next generation [after that] will be that if you want to hit that button for more information about that product you just heard described.”

Two-way interaction
Interactivity -- the ability to buy Teri Hatcher’s sweater by pushing the red button on a remote control -- has been a TV buzzword since the mid-1990s. But only recently have cable and satellite TV operators and technology companies like TiVo become viable grounds for experimenting with ad campaigns that ask consumers to opt-in for more information or, potentially, allow them to purchase a product directly from the TV.

“Whether it’s ultimately of use to consumers depends on ease of application,” said Matt Feinberg, senior VP-radio, at media-buying agency Zenith. He believes the terrestrial-radio companies could successfully use the digital technology they’ve started rolling out in a similar manner. One of the features of digital radio is a two-way interaction, which, like in digital cable, means consumers can request more information.

XM’s hardware is at least one generation away and the only comment Sirius will make is “for the future, we are working on products with multiple features and functions.” But that doesn’t stop marketers from pondering the possibilities.

Time-shifting ads in radio
“Typically you don’t think of radio as being the best direct-response medium,” said Jim O’Rourke, group media director at Dallas-based Richards Group, an agency that uses lots of radio -- it created the award-winning “Motel 6” ads -- and has experimented with TiVo’s interactive-ad functions. Whether he’d use it depends on how it would be priced, “but there is an appeal, even to just being able to time-shift an ad in radio,” he said. “It gives radio an element that TV could say it has, and print has and the Internet has.”

Linking traditional media with an online component is a kissing cousin of interactivity -- and one that is already entirely viable. San Francisco-based Delivery Agent, for example, has created an e-commerce business selling the products featured in TV shows. Weinstein Co., which produces Bravo’s “Project Runway,” contracted with Delivery Agent to sell the clothing designed on the reality competition show. A recent challenge asked fashion designers to create an outfit for My Scene Barbie; the site later sold out of the 3,300 dolls wearing the winning designer’s creation. Delivery Agent also has inked deals with NBC and ABC.

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