Got Ideas? Feel Like Innovating? TV Needs You

Consider this: For all the talk about how many advertising dollars are migrating online these days, there's still no bigger ad bucket than TV. Advertising on television accounts for about $70 billion in spending per year. Yet advertising on TV is still the least-innovative ad medium around.

Don't get me wrong -- there has been some innovation in advanced TV advertising in the last couple of years. Companies like Invidi, Visible Worlds, and Black Arrow are rolling out addressable advertising, ad insertion, and ad versioning in interesting ways. And of course, the technology behind Smart TV (which I discussed in my first post) is just beginning to help marketers engage viewers more interactively.

But there's been very little innovation in linear TV advertising, and it seems to me that this particular old-media problem is ripe for a little more new-media-style attention.



Allow me to indulge in a moment of nostalgia. Four years ago, many in the media world were commiserating about the slackening of the TV ad market and the desperation of advertisers and networks who wanted more accountability from TV advertising. A single conversation with a major media exec about the inadequacy of the status quo sparked an idea: What if we took a page from the new-media playbook, and brought to TV some of that digital accountability? Hence, a real-world problem became a very real opportunity.

Three-and-a-half years, thousands of development hours, and a few patent claims later, the industry is augmenting traditional ratings by using consumer purchasing information to inform the buying and selling of media. What's more, advertisers, networks, and agencies are now using these nontraditional indicators to hone their media strategy.

Of course, this is just one example of how real-world problems can be redefined as real-world opportunities. In our digital world, such examples are legion.

But not every new-media innovation starts with a problem; some begin with a solution. For instance, as some readers know, PayPal was originally developed to enable wireless payment. At the time, though, nobody wanted to make payments wirelessly. The solution was there, but it didn't match the problem. It wasn't until eBay was looking to help its users avoid sending checks through the mail that PayPal found -- and solved -- a problem. This is the rare exception to the rule of defining the problem first.

Moral of the story: The innovations that will move the TV industry forward -- and keep the dollars flowing -- are going to come from some unexpected sources.

After all, there's an incredible amount of opportunity at the intersection of television and technology right now. My advice to potential problem-solvers is this: Find your "spark" and run with it. Play to win, be willing to fail, and correct course as the market requires. Whatever you do, do something. The industry needs you more than ever. The more the merrier.

5 comments about "Got Ideas? Feel Like Innovating? TV Needs You".
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  1. Richard Reisman from Teleshuttle Corporation, January 24, 2011 at 5:17 p.m.

    I suggest that the biggest opportunity to enhance TV ads is to provide automatic linkage to Web sites. While this can be done on Internet TVs, the far more effective way to do it is on 2nd-screen companion devices like iPad and Android tablets (and phones). That would give TV ads all of the interactivity, actionability, and accountability of Web ads.

    The industry has been slow to understand this kind of "co-active TV," which I have been promoting for many years, but seems to be waking up to it now.

    More on co-active ads is at While that was written some time ago, some comments on why this seems much closer now are at

  2. Chris Nesbitt from Television Marketing Strategies, Inc., January 24, 2011 at 6:44 p.m.

    Though not a new idea and one that should be considered Re-groundbreaking, local television stations need to begin producing local, sustainable, compelling shows of a variety of genres, not just news. With the cost of syndication out of control, major sporting events going to cable and the fragmentation of viewership (not only on cable but on the web and mobile devices) on the rise, localism needs to be a top priority. We have some great

  3. Jay Oconner from World Colours Network Inc., January 24, 2011 at 6:54 p.m.

    Thank you so much for this article. Those of us who love television only want a voice in its future. Many have discussed product placement and have had visions when Gerald Levin Former Chair of AOL saw us buying products instantly from streaming video. Today its more than a possibility. Brandcasting is the Broadcasting of the next millennium. PULL vs PUSH TV on the web is the paradigm shift in advertising. Will the commercial TV model work on the web. seems to think so in the UK. How can we open up the creative pipeline to get more writers, producers, actors, musicians and people who make entertainment and those who consume it worldwide? How can we stop or reduce Piracy? and finally how can we create a new revenue stream that would help the entire Entertainment Supply Chain so we all can get along a prosper? Yes there is and the answers will usher the emergence of the Next Big Deal.

  4. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, January 25, 2011 at 5:36 p.m.

    Sometimes I think we need to stop worshiping innovation.

    The distribution model is evolving. But hype surrounding that change led a bunch of people to decide to throw out TV ads. Yet, for example, it seems that in the new world, programming should be delivered with the same advertising content regardless of delivery channel - consumers are accepting of it, networks would get the best from it, advertisers would be best served by it.

    What about automatic web links? Yawn. I've watched two decades of "interactive TV" developments and very, very little has been important to consumers. It's not hard to pick up the phone or type in a website.

    But what about addressability? Actually, TV is 100 times more addressable now than it was 20 years ago. The explosion and success of cable has introduced interest addressable networks - a bit like buying magazines.

    But why not other addressability? Because it's silly. Advertising training and experience clearly shows that demographics do NOT drive product interest. Other issues do. Web addressability is weak because we can't ever get to the true motivational issues for selecting consumers.

    Seems that we're expected to LOVE addressability. But it has a very, very dark side. (

    So I'll just leave a question: The idea that TV needs innovation has been foisted on us by the "innovation" culture - the really creates few innovations. Great innovations come from hard work within industries.

    So does TV really need innovation? I'm not saying "no". The better question would be to look to mass market consumers and seek out those opportunities to deliver SIGNIFICANT new value from TV advertising to them. Perhaps "respect" and "truth" would be a better start.

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 25, 2011 at 6:34 p.m.

    Doug, that was great. What happens to innovations to which the masses cannot afford to respond? People are in hock up to their TV, gaming, VOD eyeballs and how many calories do you think it takes to type in an email address? Not to mention, but....while the audience is "responding" to whatever in innovative interactive TV, they are not participating in other programming and there will be more audience loss for the other guys.

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