At consumer electronics events globally, much attention is being paid to the launch of “Ultra HD” televisions. Yet the real news for advertisers is coming from introductions of smart TVs, like Samsung’s “Smart Hub,” that not only allow apps to be used when watching television, but provide improved gesture and voice interactivity -- you can point with your finger or use your voice to search for content or change channels.
In and of itself, this may not be major news, but it presages a time when smart TVs will be as common as smartphones. It may take five years or perhaps even longer, but inevitably, smart TVs will revolutionize advertising -- especially advertising that requests a response from viewers.
Consider that in recent years, there has been a trend toward spots that include a response vehicle -- an 800 number to call or a URL to click. Those of us in the Direct Response Television (DRTV) advertising business know that conversion rates increase when viewers are able to respond quickly and easily and receive the information they seek about an advertised product or service with equal speed and facility.
We have made quantum leaps since the early days of DRTV in improving the quality and professionalism of the 800 number response process -- service representatives are better trained and computers provider faster access to requested information. Similarly, when television commercials direct viewers to click on URLs, they may well find themselves navigating to a “dedicated” site -- one designed specifically to pay off the promise of the spot that the viewer just watched.
So the current system is highly effective. Yet we also know that two obstacles stand in the way of a call or a click: lag time and device-switching. In terms of the former, we know that if people don’t respond immediately after watching a spot, they are unlikely to respond at all. They don’t feel like calling the number on the screen or using their computer to go online for any number of reasons (they’re paying attention to the next commercial airing or the program they were watching is back on or they just don’t feel like getting off the couch). Lag time, then, is a challenge for advertisers.
So too is device-switching. While some people watch television with a phone in their hand and a computer on their lap, they are the exception rather than the rule. Some viewers are reluctant to leave one device for another. Thus, an opportunity is missed for a response.
Now consider what would happen if people had the capacity to watch a commercial and while it’s airing say to the television:
“I’m interested; I’d like more information.”
Instantly, they would be connected through their television to a live service representative. No lag time. No device-switching.
Imagine what else a smart TV might be capable of. During the airing of the spot, a particular feature strikes the viewer as compelling. They might say to the television: “Tell me more about your new and improved widget.” Immediately, a new sub-commercial would air, focusing on that particular widget feature.
The possibilities are endless. For instance, let’s say a viewer is watching a car commercial and he’s intrigued by the car being advertised. He says to the television: “I’d like to test drive that car.” Thirty minutes later, a car salesperson arrives at his home with the car.
And of course, some people may not need more information to order; they may take advantage of the smart TV technology by ordering the product or service before the commercial finishes airing.
In our industry, interactive television has been more a much-discussed concept than a reality, but as smart TVs become the norm, things will change. Samsung is clearly ahead of the game, but competitors will catch up. As technologies converge and smartphone apps translate to television, people will find it easier to respond to commercials than ever before.
When that happens, every commercial will be a direct-response one. With the capacity to respond immediately and easily to viewers, what advertiser won’t take advantage of this sales capability?