For long we’ve had to tolerate commercial breaks in the midst of our favourite TV programmes. Now, times are changing and technology enabling interactive television can empower viewers so that they can skip the commercials as well as pause a live event if they wish to catch up with it later on.
In a way, this is a diametrically opposite situation from the days when DD, the only channel available, used to decide what viewers would watch. While the immediate fallout of this new feature might seem a threat to advertisers, on a more practical note, no radical change can be expected. The reasons are that today there are many viewers who want to see advertisements and do not see them as a disturbance.
As Shashi Sinha, President, Lodestar Media, puts it, “It will certainly take some time for interactive television to catch up in India. Moreover, the fact is that lots of viewers like advertisements. So, one cannot be conclusive of anything right now.”
Having said that, there is no denying that this is a wake up call for advertising agencies to make more engaging and entertaining commercials. Echoing this thought, Arvind Sharma, Chairman and CEO, Leo Burnett, said, “It is certainly a challenge for the entire advertising fraternity. The challenge is to make advertisements more interesting and consumer friendly.”
While in the US, TiVO has already been operational, in India, it will be some time before the technology empowers the viewers. Sharma observed, “In the US, where TiVO is already available, it has been found that only one-fourth of the consumers choose to skip the commercials.” Thus, the general industry view seems to be that while interactive television is definitely a wake up call for advertising, it is definitely not the doom of advertising.
Sinha addresses the issue in quite a convincing manner, “It is true that advertisers will have to be responsible and careful enough to come up with good campaigns. However, I don’t perceive any threat. It is fashionable nowadays to talk about interactive television, and while the industry should not sleep over this issue, the fact remains that good campaigns will be seen.”
Sharma has a positive view as well, “There have been challenges and opportunities that the advertising industry has had to face in the past and on most occasions it has done well by way of individual as well as collective responsibility. The individual responsibility here would be to make advertising engaging and interesting and the collective responsibility would be to ensure that the consumer perceives all advertising to be interesting on the whole so that consumers don’t skip the good ads as well as the bad ones altogether.”
Thus, interactive television is certainly not the doom of advertising – but surely is a wake up call for advertisers to stop making mediocre and routine campaigns, before the consumer chooses to skip them forever.