Most Americans Ready for ITV

Harris Study: Interactivity Is Already Here

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NEW YORK ( -- While everyone keeps waiting for interactive TV to arrive, it may have already snuck into American's living rooms. A new survey conducted by Harris Interactive revealed that 66% of Americans use their remotes for basic interactivity.
. Credit: AP

That's everything from electronic programming guides, video on demand and digital video recordings to actual interactive experiences with shows or commercials. What the survey also revealed was that well over half of the U.S. population is ready and eager for deeper interactivity with all programming, including a 66% interest to interact with commercial advertising.

Different formats
Several different formats exist, but all tend to start with a prompt to go interactive by pressing a "select" or "ok" button on remote controls. Ensequence, an iTV company, has already experimented with two different formats: interactive ads and interactive sponsorship.

For Nike's Zoom, Ensequence produced an interactive campaign featuring NFL athlete LaDainian Tomlinson in conjunction with Nike's agency of record, Wieden & Kennedy. Responding to a prompt during a 30-second spot brought viewers to a virtual channel with a menu that allowed users to navigate a Nike-branded space that offered up to 22 minutes of extra video content on Mr. Tomlison, games and information on the new product. A similar campaign for Reebok, in partnership with Brightline Partners, created the first TV remote purchase ability in the U.S.

The interactive sponsorship format basically takes a brand-integrated experience beyond a program. During Bravo's third season of reality show "Top Chef," fans could respond to prompts via on on-screen overlay that let viewers actively vote for contestants or download recipes feature products by sponsor Bertolli.

"What we are seeing with iTV is brand awareness levels going up by 70%, and purchase scores up 50%," says Michele Bogdan, senior VP-marketing for Ensequence. "We can measure exactly what [consumers] are doing, how much time they are spending on the interactive domains [and other metrics], because it is entirely controlled and monitored, unlike the internet."
Michele Bogdan
Michele Bogdan

The repercussions for the ad industry -- and for 30-second spots in particular -- could be dramatic.

Renaissance for the :30
"I used to work in advertising for Ogilvy & Mather, BBDO. ... For so long there was this gloom and doom over televised ads [because of digital technologies], the 'death of the 30- second spots,'" Ms. Bogdan said. "But really, this is a renaissance of the 30-second spot." And it will challenge the traditional advertising model on TV, as advertisers are going to have to focus on grabbing attention rather than just buying a spot.

After all, if the 30-second spot becomes the teaser gateway for an interactive experience, then competition between advertisers to lure consumers into pressing that button and entering their virtual channels will surely drive creativity and originality. "This is going to put a lot more onus on the creatives to find the right call to action," said Ms. Bogdan, who warns that "what advertisers need to recognize is that when people are in front of a TV, they expect a higher level of entertainment, especially higher than the web. It's not just slapping a web page on TV."

Pricing for this kind of advertisement is reliant on two things: the cost of the application's production, which varies and can include advertising material already produced for other mediums, and a premium for storage on a network's bandwidth, dependent on the application's size in memory.

As for the adoption rate for this technology, very little is actually required of consumers: anybody with a regular digital set-top box provided by most cable companies needs only a software update. That means the vast majority (more than 85%) of consumers are already capable of this kind of interactivity, and you can expect iTV companies like Ensequence to ride the "digital wave" of the government's 2009 deadline for the nation to upgrade to digital, making the issue obsolete.

The catch is how fast the cable companies add the upgrade. The software updates are provided by iTV companies such as Ensequence through the cable operator's network. Satellite providers Dish Network and DirectTV already offer these services, and talks with cable giants Time Warner and Comcast are under way.

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What Harris Interactive Found:
  • 72% of those who watch reality TV shows want to interact with those shows
  • 65% of those who watch sporting events on TV want to interact with those events
  • 66% of viewers want to interact with commercial advertising
  • 70% of TV viewers would consider signing up for another cable or satellite provider if they offered advanced interactivity at no extra charge
  • 50% of those who watch drama TV shows indicated that they would be interested in interacting with those shows
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