Samsung’s Smart TV as presented in Cannes doesn’t seem so smart to me

MaryLou Costa is a key member of the Marketing Week features team and her blog brings her unique Australian perspective to brands. She also oversees the Market Research Focus weekly bulletin.

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Samsung and Cheil’s Smart TV presentation in Cannes this week could have been showing a scene straight out of Back to the Future, or Avatar even.

A cartoon consumer named Mike is fast asleep and awoken by the monstrous screen mounted opposite his bed. “Good morning Mike!” it shouts. Mike then bounces out of bed, and the first thing he does is access his day and week’s schedule also via the big shiny flat screen – his very own Samsung Smart TV. He then reads the news and sport – all tailored to his tastes, as determined by the intelligent device.

Another cartoon consumer – I’ve forgotten what they called her, but let’s make it Annie – is getting ready for her day, and uses her Smart TV to help her. It has catalogued her entire wardrobe and she can scroll through and see outfits or individual items at a glance. What’s more, she can chat to her friends via the Smart TV as she is getting dressed and ask for their opinions, or even browse their wardrobes and ask to borrow something.

Watching a programme on her Smart TV, Annie can then chat messenger-style to her friends about how much they love what they are watching. Then when you’re watching you can even buy something you’ve seen, like a dress on an actress or ingredients in a cooking programme.

As for brands, well this presentation would have you believe that Smart TV is going to be the next commercial playground. Smart TV apps are supposedly interactive and immersive like never before. A brand like L’Oreal could release a Smart TV app giving consumers a virtual makeover via their screen and webcam. BMW could offer virtual test drives. You could browse and virtually try on the new collection at H&M, and order it immediately.

Sounds like some kind of technological utopia, but let’s consider the reality of what makes this set up not very smart at all.

The assumptions made by Samsung and agency Cheil in delivering this presentation and encouraging brands to invest in the platform are based on a very narrow consumer group – single rich people. Mike might be happy to be awoken to the blare of his Smart TV, but if I were his partner sleeping next to him, I’d be throwing anything I could find to shut the thing up. And as Mike stumbles blearily out of bed, does he really want to be confronted with the horrors of his work schedule, when he is still at home?

As clever as the wardrobe coordinating feature is (believe me, I want it), again, if Mike and I are getting dressed in the same bedroom at the same time this is a catalyst for all hell to break loose. And, cartoon Annie might have all the time in the world to discuss her wardrobe choices with her friends via her Smart TV, but I sure don’t.

Mike and I might also be rich enough to have a Smart TV in our bedroom and in our living room, but I would imagine that the price of such a revolutionary product would preclude many consumers from owning more than the one that they would utilise as an entire family.

And here is where the crux of the argument against Smart TV lies. Samsung and Cheil’s vision is of TV being entirely social, but they have ignored the fact that although consuming content digitally is a social experience, there is a physically social element that can’t be married with some of the features they are promoting.

When Annie is chatting to her friend via Smart TV about the show she is watching, the comments appearing on the screen will be completely irrelevant to the company she might have if she is watching with someone – her partner, children or even friends. This behaviour relies largely on her consuming this alone. She might want to use her L’Oreal or H&M app, but again, these are individual experiences, not ones that necessarily want to be shared by her partner or whoever she lives with.

The relationship consumers have with their TVs will certainly change with the take up of web-connected TV and the apps and content opportunities they offer, but we don’t have as intimate relationships with this large, communal device as we do with smaller, personal devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Interactive apps work on a one-to-one level in this space, where a device is portable and always within arm’s reach, not a wall-mounted monstrosity.

As for further brand opportunities, the Smart TV could know that you were preparing to watch something like, say, the Superbowl and it could prompt you to do something like order a pizza from Domino’s by a large window that appears next to what you are watching. The presentation encouraged this, but to me this is the kind of in your face behaviour brands should be warned against.

I do imagine a future where we will all have some kind of iPad-like device that we would take from room to room with us as and interact with as we go about our day, that could connect with our TVs. This to me is smart. The presentation on Smart TV I saw in Cannes is definitely not.

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