Divining the future of interactive television has been front and center to the digital ad debate, since the collapse of Canoe Ventures' iTV division a few weeks ago. Based on the volume growth and range of ways major advertisers used it to supplement traditional TV and digital ad strategies over the past year, front and center is right where it belongs. The savviest of top marketers in the US used 2011 to ramp up their use of, and activity levels within, the space and new adopters got a taste of the tremendous ROI that iTV can bring to their integrated, multi-platform campaigns.
On a Clear Path to Growth
One of the most significant trends observed last year was the substantial increase in iTV campaign volume, and the scale/reach of each. In 31% of homes in the US with DirecTV or Dish satellite service, for example, viewers needed only to turn on their TV set to see new iTV campaigns launched every week in 2011. The campaigns also ran longer, and spanned every single brand category. Food, personal care and pharma brands such as Lipton, Abreva, AXE and Cheez-It all leveraged digital set-top boxes to initiate a dialogue with their target audience, customized for both their demographic and campaign objective. In addition to observable increases in volume and cross-category use is the repeat rate and increased frequency with which brands are launching programs, all tell-tale signs that iTV's not only an interesting way for them to leverage digital media and interactivity, but that its also working for them. Finally, the 54 million digital cable homes with video-on-demand are finding more advertising, and more importantly, unique ad experiences within their VOD environments, complementing and extending many of the very same iTV campaigns you see on satellite.
Growth is largely driven by the following core benefits:
• Accountability: Set-top box data is an incredible opportunity to marketers to hold their TV dollars accountable in ways that weren't previously possible.
• Effectiveness: Quantitative analyses across categories and audiences substantiate the findings: voluntary engagement is twice as effective as traditional commercials at driving purchase. More importantly, adding interactivity to TV spends is a marginal premium, one that yields dividends in engagement.
• Scale: The ability to initiate a two-way dialogue in 75% of homes is not new, but marketers are now generating enough data and experience to figure out HOW to make that dialogue work for them across each unique viewing experience, whether it be on-demand, interactive, or connected.
Marketers across all categories are using satellite TV platforms to drive qualified mass engagements with brands. Marketers in the CPG, alcohol / spirits, OTC and financial categories generated up to 1.6 million voluntary engagements per week. Layering on average quantitative study results that showed 50% of visitors purchased the product after engaging with the brand is more than a strong hint on why marketers quickly get beyond a slight CPM premium to cover bandwidth requirements.
Also in 2011, brands saw click-through rates as high as 6.8 percent, and viewers spent upwards of three minutes on average engaged with brands within interactive experiences on their televisions. On top of these striking engagement statistics, cost per click benchmarks continued to dip far below other more traditional digital engagement vehicles, making iTV as much as 98 percent more efficient than the average search buy, and more cost effective than digital display from a cost-per-click perspective.
Finally, iTV marketers are learning that the more intelligent, integrated and innovative their interactive campaigns are, the more they can be rewarded in the end.
A common lament is that the iTV audience is small, it's a myth. Experienced iTV campaign developers are launching programs across multiple platforms (3-4 on average), much like piecing together a holistic, comprehensive online plan (where a single ad network buy just does not cut it). Campaigns designed and launched by my company, BrightLine, typically run simultaneously across 90+MM homes, to engage TV audiences en masse. We also find that an engaged consumer has at LEAST one other person in the room when clicking into one of our programs generating effective audiences of up to 6 million viewers. That's a cable rating… for a brand.
This is the first in a two-part series summarizing key outward signs of iTV's growth among major marketers. Read Part 2 here: "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 email@example.com.