Advertisers band together to raise the standard of iTV

Believing that interactive TV is falling far short of its potential to sell brands, major advertisers are putting their financial clout behind the medium. By Andrew Howells

A group of the world’s biggest advertisers have chosen to work together to take advantage of the opportunities that interactive television (iTV) represents for brand advertising. Zip Television, an independent iTV specialist, has brought together leading brand advertisers including Reckitt Benckiser, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Gillette and BT.

The UK has the most advanced digital TV platform in the world, with nearly a third of all households subscribing to digital. Advertisers involved in the consortium are very excited about the potential of this medium but are also aware of some problems. Zip TV is undertaking a study addressing these issues in the hope of providing solutions.

First is iTV’s potential for greater creativity. The rise of iTV advertising has gone largely unnoticed by creative agencies and, as a result, most iTV campaigns use a few pre-defined templates. The advantage of this is that ads are low in cost and can be produced quickly. The disadvantages are that creativity is stifled because campaigns are restricted to a few formats, that campaigns are primarily response driven, and they tend to appeal to a small sector of the market only. By introducing flexibility, campaigns could be richer, more creative brand-building opportunities.

Another problem is improving cost ratios. Richer, more creative campaigns require more satellite space, which costs more. The cost of capturing data is also still high in comparison with other media. The consortium wants to examine the cost model for iTV and ensure that efficiencies are found wherever possible. This will make the medium more attractive to more advertisers and help to develop the market.

A third issue is standardisation. Advertisers want to be able to run a single creative execution across all broadcast channels, but to do this broadcasters must adopt a common standard. The consortium believes that this should be one designed by advertisers for advertisers. Zip is also investigating buying satellite space on the Sky platform that will be linked to traditional TV advertising on broadcast channels. By pressing the “red button”, viewers will be able to jump to a single creative execution created by the advertiser.

Finally, the consortium is keen to encourage better measurement, shared learning and experimentation. Marketers are under pressure to be more accountable and iTV has a rich source of consumer data that could provide new forms of measurement. The success of the iTV medium is important enough for a group of advertisers, some of them competitors, to come together to create an environment that encourages experimentation and testing, and the sharing of learning, insight and costs.

This is a major opportunity for the iTV industry as the consortium is prepared to make a significant, sustained financial investment in the development of iTV advertising. The result for advertisers should be better insight into what extra value iTV can provide over traditional TV.

Andrew Howells is managing partner of Zip Television

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