By now, most of us have heard at least something about the various electronic wallets that are intended to change the ways we transact and – more recently – about Apple’s iBeacon,
the indoor positioning and messaging system.
To date, almost all of the discussion around the application of these technologies has focused on retail environments of one sort or
another, but it seems to me they also have massive implications for the world of TV — both programming and advertising.
Breaking it down into its simplest form, iBeacon is
basically a tiny radio transmitter that leverages Bluetooth Low Energy to identify where you are and your proximity to the iBeacon itself. This technology is compatible with every iOS device since the
iPhone4S and every Android phone that supports Bluetooth 4.0 or later and Android 4.3 or later. In other words, a very large number of phones.
The case that it typically given
as an example is when the consumer is in or approaching a store. The retailers iBeacon will automatically send a promotional message. (“This hour only – 25% off your next coffee”
The really interesting wrinkle is that Apple has already developed the technology. In line with how the iPad is becoming a feature of more retail environments from restaurants
to Apple stores, every Apple device sold since the iPhone 4S is capable of effectively becoming an iBeacon itself. We’ll come back to this point.
The iWallet is
effectively the flip side of the equation. With iTunes, Apple has amassed transactional data on well over half a billion customers. Since the rollout of iCloud Keychain last year and with more loyalty
cards and similar information being stored within Passbook, Apple has basically been downloading the content of our wallets onto our devices.
With the launch of the iPhone 5S, we were
introduced to touchID, the fingerprinting security technology. As it becomes more widespread, it will result in your iWallet being infinitely more secure that your physical wallet.
Combined, the iBeacon, the iWallet and the touchID system mean that Apple effectively competes directly with everything but cash. Even that last point is debatable, as your phone potentially becomes
capable of of receiving money, too.
What’s all this got to do with TV and advertising? Let’s go back to that point about all those iOS devices being able to broadcast
iBeacon information — the promotional and marketing messages.
Now walk away from retail and think about the home. What kind of capability do you think we’re going to see
built into AppleTVs in the future? iBeacon is already compatible with any other iOS device, so the idea of AppleTVs being excluded from the family is almost nonsensical. After all, it will be
what identifies the programming and advertising the viewer is exposed to.
As for the other essential component, it’s already in place – as we know from the reams of
articles and research about second-screen media usage via tablets or smartphones.
TV and brand marketers still need to drive downloads of their apps — or maybe its about being
integrated into the apps of other relevant parties (think sponsorship). But as iBeacon can talk to apps at any time, the potential is there for media owners to promote shows and drive tune in, provide
additional back-story info and incentives to interact with shows online etc., promote related show merchandise and so on.
For advertisers and their agencies, the opportunity could be
directly linked to the nature of the advertising proposition — money off, test drives, chance to win, brand positioning experiences, etc. The creative opportunities to those behind the ads are
as broad and varied as the advertisers themselves.
None of this will happen overnight or — in any significant way — for the next couple of years. But it will happen. TV is
becoming more interactive and more transactional; it isn’t necessarily the legacy players that will lead that charge — though the broadcasters and content owners will undoubtedly benefit
But while this might sound like some version of heaven for TV marketers and advertisers, if not approached properly and with care, it could easily become a version of TV hell
for viewers. Too much messaging, repetitive messaging or inappropriate and irrelevant messaging will undermine the potential that exists.
Our cell phones are our most personal media,
and we love our tablets, too. Perhaps most importantly, the passion with which we follow our favorite shows is such that an overly intrusive or clumsy intrusion into the world of “my
programs” will be met with a harsh reaction.
While the upside of the iBeacon, iWallet, AppleTV trifecta is potentially huge, the downside could be disastrous for brands and
programmers alike. It will be in the interest of all concerned to tread lightly.