Interactive TV Advertising, Mastering the Medium

  • by October 3, 2011
It has been more than 70 years since the first television commercial aired in the United States, yet buying traditional TV time -- generally the 30 second spot -- has remained mostly unchanged. But in recent years, with the introduction of alternative "OTT" (Over The Top) solutions, consumers and advertisers are starting to experience a massive transformation from passive to interactive TV.

TV has always been a great place to get your message out. It's hard to argue with the power of the 30-second spot on today's broadcast and cable networks. Despite the declining and increasingly fragmented audience composition, traditional TV is still the best way to reach a broad audience with an acceptable level of frequency. And the TV experience has evolved over the years, moving from black and white to color to HD, and finally, to interactive.

So what do marketers need to know about this brave new world of interactive advertising on the largest screen in the house? How can today's digital savvy marketers master this new medium? Perhaps the best advice I can offer is to learn from those who are already doing it well - many of them on Xbox LIVE. The most successful interactive television campaigns on Xbox LIVE share some common characteristics:

1. They exchange value with the consumer and reward them for their attention

2. They invite rather than interrupt the audience

3. They have the look and feel of an "experience" versus an "advertisement"

For advertisers, the biggest barrier to interactive TV advertising has been technology. This beautiful blend of TV and web advertising tends to be expensive to implement and difficult to measure. And for consumers, interactive TV has been too complicated to use. The inherent limitations of the remote as the input device is a big challenge. Using the remote to navigate content is frustratingly slow and cumbersome.

The good news is that it's all about to change. In the very near future, consumers will be able to interact with their TV in the most natural way imaginable-through voice and gesture. Imagine being able to talk or motion at your TV sets to text, tweet or vote on advertising content. The enabling technology is what we at Microsoft call NUads, an interactive advertising format powered by Natural User interaction (voice and gesture) and powered by Kinect for Xbox 360. NUads break down the barrier between consumers and content on the TV screen to make traditional linear content-like a 30 second TV spot-irresistibly interactive. NUads are also easy to implement - all you need is a 30-second spot, a URL and a call to action. Our technology does the rest.

Marketers are already jumping in and demonstrating innovation in ways unheard of just a few short years ago. These are the advertisers who are forging new ground and paving the way for interactive TV advertising. Enabling consumers to naturally interact with the TV screen will solve a significant and costly problem that has long plagued TV advertisers: lack of engagement. Not only is the future near. It's here.

Mark Kroese is the general manager and founder of the Advertising Business Group within Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business. He oversees the advertising infrastructure that spans across games, music, video and mobile communications and brings forth compelling advertising solutions to marketers interested in extending their brands to a broad and highly-engaged audience.

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