It's Time To Pay Attention

You've got to hand it to the peacock network - the "ostrich" network it is not. NBC has always been at the forefront of creative thought in addressing ad skipping and efficacy.

Most recently, new NBC Entertainment Co-Chair Ben Silverman came out of the gate, handing some of the content's creative process -- and responsibility -- to advertisers. "The business is changing," he said. "If our creative partners want to execute programming at the level we've been funding it, we're going to have to bring advertisers into the fold."

If there's any doubt about what that means, his frankness is refreshing: "If you're making broadcast television, you better get the joke: We get financed by advertising."

My take? If, as Silverman notes, TV gets financed by advertising, then we should also recognize that advertising gets financed by TV viewers -- and it's time to give something back!

Actually, another NBC executive, former President Neil Braun, nailed it over six years ago, in an interview with Mike Wallace on "60 Minutes," when he was discussing a then-newfangled device called TiVo:

 

Neil Braun: You are going to have to create a much more compelling reason for an end user not to zap forward than currently exists.

 

Mike Wallace: What's that going to be? Have you figured that out?

 

Braun: Spend your time watching my commercial and something good will happen. That's what people are going to have to say.

 

Wallace: Like, for instance?

 

Braun: Win a million dollars, get a discount. They're going to have to have a proposition that immediately conveys value of some sort-entertainment value, economic value, some kind of value to the viewer.

I think Braun was right; and as reprehensible as it may sound to some of you, rewarding viewers for their time and verified attention to commercials is a business model whose time has come.

This new category of advertising - "reactive advertising" - evolved from two other proven reactive TV categories. Shows like "American Idol" represent the latest generation of reactive content, while Home Shopping Network blazed the trails of reactive commerce several decades ago, spawning dozens of other reactive commerce channels.

The key to reactive mass media is that the stimulation is not interactive -- it's the same ad, show, or offer being broadcast to each viewer. There's no set top box software or bandwidth constraints to get the reactive ads out to the mass audience. It's the mass-media-delivered call to action that gets the reactive process going -- and the possibilities are truly endless.

Primitive? Perhaps. Inexpensive? Absolutely. Effective? You bet.

It's actually pretty easy. Start an ad pod (or TV program) with an invitation to viewers to pay attention to the commercials (the "Alert"); at the end of the ad pod (or program), ask the audience a question about one or more of the commercials. Give them a Web site and a brief, defined period of time to prove they've paid attention.

Then, use a second network -- like phones, the mail, or ideally, the Internet -- to capture responses. While you're at it, why not start an interactive exchange of ideas and commerce?

So tell me, what's wrong with rewarding viewers for proving they've paid attention, especially if you can get a tidbit of information from them that could help make your products -- or ads -- better? It's really not that foreign an idea. Have you ever received money in the mail for filling in a survey? Are you too busy to fill in a questionnaire unless it's made worth your while?

Hell, last I checked, even Nielsen pays people to prove they watch TV. The bottom line -- if the entire TV industry is based on the actions of a monetized minority of Americans, what's wrong with including the rest of us?

Next post, I'll share with you some research I've conducted to explain how and why reactive advertising works incredibly well. Until then, I want to hear what YOU think. Can reactive advertising save TV, or does "paying attention" (even if additional information is collected in the process) forever cheapen the relationship between advertiser and viewer?

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