Magazine article Marketing

Media Analysis: iTV Returns Will Be Worth the Wait

Magazine article Marketing

Media Analysis: iTV Returns Will Be Worth the Wait

Article excerpt

Despite its perceived failings, the next generation of interactive TV will vindicate its proponents.

Ever since the launch of the first red-button ad for Unilever's Chicken Tonight brand in March 2000, interactive TV (iTV) has come under fire for being overpriced, over-hyped and largely overlooked by marketers.

Five's decision last week to abandon its iTV service has fuelled speculation that red-button advertising, a sector valued at less than pounds 20m in the UK, has had its day. The broadcaster claims that the costs associated with iTV programming, advertising and sponsorship are too prohibitive to be included in its future strategy.

Similar sentiments were aired in January 2006 by Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan, who branded red-button technology 'slow', 'basic' and 'clunky' as the broadcaster pulled the plug on its iTV programming service.

Despite its critics, iTV's reputation as a pariah of the ad industry is largely undeserved. Figures from Sky show that more than 93% of digital satellite households pressed red to interact with their TV last year. A further 16% accessed iTV ads during 2007 for a range of high-profile brands, including Adidas, Cadbury and Nintendo. More importantly, more than 70% of advertisers that experiment with red-button campaigns end up coming back for more. 'Red-button advertising is re-used time and time again by blue-chip advertisers,' says Jeremy Tester, head of insight at Sky Media. 'It is a powerful brand-building tool.'

Few would argue that iTV is able to deliver the same level of brand engagement available via broadband and mobile platforms. However, Sky has been driving innovation in the red-button sector, with the launch of fresh formats including its video advertiser location service (VAL), which allows brands to target consumers with up to 12 minutes of rich media. It also plans to roll out green-button advertising later this year, to enable consumers to access TV advertising on-demand.

It is this shift away from simple, text- and image-based iTV ads that represents the future of the red-button sector. 'The red button is the first phase in the development of iTV,' argues Nigel Walley, managing director of digital consultancy Decipher. 'There is a lot of exciting innovation on the horizon.'

Walley claims that Five has marked itself out as a 'second tier' commercial broadcaster for turning its back on iTV. Meanwhile, ITV, Viacom and Turner Broadcasting, among others, are positioning themselves for the future, when viewers will have far more control over the commercial messages they consume.

It is almost certain that iTV, in its current form, will die out, as consumers grow intolerant of accessing clunky red-button applications via their TV remote. …

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