There is a misperception in the media marketplace that the iTV audience is small and restricted to a handful of distributors…. but that is simply no longer the case. There are a variety of distribution platforms that have joined the satellite and cable companies in the iTV business. By including telcos, connected TV's, gaming platforms (xBox and Playstation) and over-the-top technologies into their mix; iTV developers are launching their campaigns in nearly 90MM homes.

Welcoming the Telcos

While branded channel destinations across satellite platforms remain a staple for engagement on TV, similar branded experiences across emerging telco platforms, U-Verse and FiOS, have also demonstrated substantial growth. In the second half of 2011, telco iTV campaigns generated CTRs, visits and engagement levels in line with that of satellite homes. This proves that consumers on the receiving end of a carefully crafted iTV campaign are willing and want to engage, provided the experience is seamless, message relevant, and content valuable. It is evident that brands are looking to take advantage of telco platforms¹ advanced capabilities and highly interactive footprint in the coming year, as U-Verse ran more iTV campaigns than any other platform in Q4 of 2011.

There's a similar story brewing with regard to Connected TV's, as early response rates are equally high, though lag sats, telcos and gaming consoles in achievable reach. Advanced, interactive TV experiences now available through connected CE devices, is generating heated competition for viewer subscription dollars, which will based on observation, in-turn, yield better consumer experiences for brands. And that's a great thing for data-driven marketers who want to leverage and keep pace with the change in behavior on TV, much the same way most already do online. Talk of who will "win" the living room often focuses on the provider, when in fact the clear winner here will be the consumer, and with them savvy brands who can feed the new behavior.

Let the Games Begin!

Another key area of growth within the advanced advertising sector is gaming platforms, or "connected entertainment" as they now bill themselves. These are not only proving effective outside the male 18-24 demographic, but Microsoft¹s Xbox and Sony¹s PS3 continue to make waves for marketers across many different categories. In 2011, brands generated CTRs as high as 4.75 percent across game consoles, delivering hundreds of thousands of voluntary visits and even more branded video views in just a few weeks. Further, hundreds of thousands of gamers chose to extend their engagement with brands by opting to download branded skins and icons to personalize their consoles. One young male-targeted brand left an indelible footprint on their audience, logging 500,000 downloads of branded content - that's consumers voluntarily "wearing" their favorite brand virtually. Who says consumers hate advertising???

The Future Looks Bright

The future health and value of iTV in the digital and traditional ad mix is anything but in question. How quickly all marketers take advantage of the stellar attributes of the medium will prove the only question. In the meantime, platforms will rise, fail, succeed, perhaps even rise again, and as they do the end consumer experience will only get better, along with opportunities for advertisers to connect more and more deeply with their audience. Those who place careful bets on who will win, or wait for a winner to prevail will be waiting a long time, and miss out on an impressive boost to ad effectiveness, those who continue to "do and learn" through a fact-based strategic approach will grow their lead. Look to online: that Myspace failed did not ruin social networking forever and drag down all its advertisers with it, social networking simply survived as Facebook, and marketers moved their dollars accordingly, taking what learnings still applied with them. The search for a silver bullet in TV is rooted in both natural and learned behaviors, not to mention the resistance to move on from a $70 billion dollar model that has worked so well for so long.

The brands leading in the race to exploit the power of digital technology in the living room (and on tablets too as it turns out, more on this in a subsequent piece) are seeking the help of specialists, much like in online's early days, to achieve turn-key approaches with predictable results and the benefit of full integration into broader campaigns. More platforms will emerge, and experts able to seamlessly engineer campaigns across them all will see audience numbers, engagements and time spent within campaigns expand exponentially, along with the value received for their TV ad dollar. The top ROI scores that marketers are seeing across the board right now, speak for themselves, and will serve to fully cement iTV as a pillar in brands' marketing mixes down the line.

Click to Read Part 1 -Tangible Signs that iTV is on Its Way Up, Not Out

Jacqueline Corbelli is the co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of BrightLine, an advertising and marketing firm, which creates and implements interactive TV (iTV) advertising strategies that engage target consumers in a two-way dialogue with brands, such as Unilever, Glaxo, SmithKline and Kellogg's. Accounting for 95 percent of all iTV activity, BrightLine is recognized as the market leader in exploiting the latest digital technologies to create interactive brand experiences for television viewers. Jacquie can be reached at jcorbelli@brightlineitv.com.

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