Encouraging on-screen action

A high proportion of viewers have negative attitudes towards interactive ads on TV. Advertisers must educate and innovate if the medium is to prosper

Interactive advertising has come a long way since Unilever launched the first interactive ad campaign, marketing its Chicken Tonight cooking sauce, three years ago. Indeed, as Sky Digital announced that it has signed up its 100th interactive advertiser earlier this year, it appears that after a slow start, interactive advertising is building momentum.

More than half of Sky Digital viewers interviewed by BMRB’s Audience Interaction Monitor (AIM) claim to have seen an interactive ad. About a quarter of those who have seen an ad say they have interacted with one, which means that 14 per cent of all Sky Digital viewers have interacted with an ad.

However, the research, which surveyed Sky, cable and Freeview viewers on the range of services digital TV offers, found that almost three times as many Sky Digital viewers, 47 per cent, have interacted with a programme, as opposed to an ad. This suggests that it is easier to encourage people to interact with a programme that lasts 30 minutes rather than with a 30-second ad. Persuading viewers to interact within such a short time is obviously a challenge for any creatives involved in designing interactive executions.

Younger viewers are the most likely to interact with an advertisement. The research shows that 56 per cent of Sky Digital viewers who have used interactive services are 15 to 34 years old. Encouragingly for advertisers, the AB demographic is also more likely than average to have interacted with an ad.

These figures suggest that interactive advertising is grabbing the attention of the young and the upmarket and, at present, is most suitable for brands looking to target those markets.

Viewers who do use interactive services say they are prompted to do so out of curiosity about what will happen or what is on offer. The novelty factor is obviously a key way of drawing new viewers to the services, and again this presents a challenge for creatives involved in designing interactive campaigns.

But viewers also interact with ads because they are interested in the product and want more information, indicating that content is a key motivator. Free product samples and promotional offers appear to have some success in encouraging interaction: more than 13 per cent of Sky Digital viewers cited these as their reason for interacting with an ad.

Viewers who have interacted with ads are generally, if not overwhelmingly, impressed with the content they saw. Almost 18 per cent of respondents rate the interactive part of the ads as very good, while about half felt that it was fairly good. However, close to a third were not impressed with the interactive part of the ads they have seen, which suggests there is room for improving content.

The people surveyed in AIM have also completed BMRB’s Target Group Index survey, the single source survey covering usage of products and services across a range of categories, as well as media consumption and lifestyle. BMRB has merged data from the two surveys to help to identify the behaviour of those most likely to use interactive advertising.

The results show that viewers who have already used interactive advertising services are likely to watch programmes such as Friends. Indeed, it shows that a little over 43 per cent of interactive users watch the show compared to less than a third of all adults in the UK. This data can be used to build up a profile of viewers interested in interactive advertising and also suggests that placing such ads carefully, particularly as the medium finds its feet, will pay dividends.

As well as behaviour, AIM covers respondents’ attitudes towards digital TV as a whole. Interestingly, it found that 47 per cent of viewers of all digital TV claim they would not interact with an ad.

Worryingly for advertisers, this means that almost half of the audience exposed to interactive advertising have a negative view of it. Older viewers tend to be more inclined to say that they will never use interactive advertising services, but there is little difference between social grades.

Although interactive advertising is still evolving and has been hindered by expensive and cumbersome operating systems, the medium is gaining ground. There is still a largely untapped market of digital viewers who have not interacted with either a programme or an ad, suggesting that digital TV operators may need to educate viewers on how to use services and the benefits that they can offer. This may help to overcome the hurdle of negative attitudes towards interactive advertising among such a high proportion of viewers.

However, it is equally important that the quality of content, both in the ads and the interactive areas, are constantly improved to stimulate viewers’ curiosity, but also to make using the services worth their while. The potential benefits of interactive advertising in terms of building better relationships between advertisers and consumers should ensure the continued growth of the medium.

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