Advertising has long been debated for its effectiveness in actually influencing consumer behavior. Various studies have put forth theories, but one thing that all advertisers agree on is that involving the consumer in the advertisement somehow greatly increases the chance of ‘stickiness’ of the ad in the person’s mind. The Internet has proven to be a game-changer in terms of how people choose the brands they wish to interact with, and how they consume advertising. The growth of data capabilities on the mobile phone has brought these functionalities into the hands of millions of Indians. And the spurt in digital television now means that a lot of the features that the Internet is popular for is now accessible over the television.
The Television Experience
Television viewers have never had any control over the advertising that they watch, since the slots were primarily sold based on estimated viewership at that particular time. Advertisers who wished to reach the largest audience had to shell-out huge sums for prime-time placements, while knowing full-well that their commercials were viewed by a large number as a distraction from the primary content that they were viewing.
Interactive advertising changes this whole system on its head, as viewers of television programmes can now choose to see an advertisement, and would need to press a button on the remote to actually see more information from the advertiser. This means that at different times during the programme, a small blurb for a brand could appear at the side of the screen and when the viewer clicks a button on the TV remote, the full advertisement appears on the screen which the viewer can navigate around and interact with by using the TV remote. This can then be closed by the click of another button.
Bringing it home
The technology behind something like this is fairly simple: every television with a direct-to-home satellite or cable connection has three channels of connectivity with the service provider. While two of these transport audio and video, the third data channel is typically not used very often. This is the channel that would carry such advertising and content, and software enables the ad content to overlay the video feed on the television screen. Since the data channel already exists, offering such a service does not represent a substantial financial burden for operators and service providers.
With interactive advertising representing a whole new range of opportunities, operators and advertisers would be able to pinpoint target consumer groups and individuals based on location and income levels.
The Advertiser’s Choice
For a high-end, luxury brand, mass advertising may not be a necessity, as a majority of viewers may not be their target audience at all. In such a case, they can choose to have their advertisement accessible only to those television subscribers whose annual household income is above a certain amount. With this level of targeting now possible for advertisers, why would they even consider paying for broad campaigns that may or may not reach their targets?
Even considering a wide-reach campaign required for an FMCG product, of a total of around 140 million TV homes in India, 45 million are now connected with the new digital cable connections. This means that the medium is already available, and it is now just a question of provisioning interactive content on the medium.
Advertising’s holy grail is the opportunity to collect feedback in real-time from a person who has viewed the advertisement. While the Internet brought about a revolution in terms of tracking how users interacted with advertising, traditional advertising on television has been the electronic equivalent of screaming a message in a crowded place. Now, the power of interacting with an advertisement has literally transferred control into the viewer’s hands. In time, once the next generation networks into homes becomes a reality with advanced set top boxes and broadband penetration, a click of the remote during an advertisement could automatically dial the neighbourhood pizza parlour to place an order, or a car dealer to schedule a test-drive.
Now, creating an interactive application that would run on a platform like television would represent an investment that would probably be well within the range of creating and running a traditional ad campaign. This may not be the case, however, if the campaign is primarily targeted for a web or mobile platform. The biggest benefit to advertisers could very well be that interactive applications and content for television could be created as easily as content for internet or mobile screens.
With technology created to deliver digital and interactive content and advertising to set top boxes from a variety of vendors, media agencies and content producers can focus on engaging the target audience. From a business perspective, companies offering such solutions would ideally need to be positioned in a unique place – where they can create interactive applications, test it across set top box platforms and seamlessly integrate with the DTH and cable providers, and also offer media selling services.
The future of advertising on traditional media appeared uncertain until recently, but with a reinvention of this nature, advertising will move from an annoying interruption to being engaging content that the user chooses to interact with. Businesses advertising their products and services in this way may well discover that their advertising spend results in much more qualified leads and conversions than the broad, all-out campaigns that run today.
(Kallol Borah is the Founder and Director of Lukup Media. You can send him your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org)