Magazine article Marketing

Digital TV Puts DM into Sharper Focus

Magazine article Marketing

Digital TV Puts DM into Sharper Focus

Article excerpt

Interactive TV offers a powerful new platform for shopping. DM agencies are PREPARING for the revolution.

Shopping patterns have altered radically over the past two decades. The muscle of supermarket chains has seen independent grocers all but wiped out. More recently, the internet has posed a threat to any retailer operating exclusively offline.

But, just as retailers adjust to this new commercial environment, a new channel has emerged -- digital interactive TV. This offers the possibility that the TV set will become a shopping tool--even more so than the PC.

DM practitioners believe they are ideally placed to exploit this new medium. The skills required: one-to-one communication, data capture and accurate targeting are all second nature to DM agencies.

At this year's International Direct Marketing Fair, interactive TV is the subject of a half-day seminar chaired by Simon Wyatt, head of business development, interactive services, at Oracle Corporation (see box).

Digital interactive TV enables viewers to access services through their home set. Purchasing goods, making financial enquiries, booking holidays, playing games and sending e-mails can be done at the touch of a remote-control button.

NTL was the first to the market. It launched in March last year, offering home shopping, news and travel information, and games through its TV-Internet set-top box. Interactive services are now accessed via its digital cable TV service. The communications company has since started forming strategic alliances. It will launch an interactive news channel with ITN later this year. Other big-brand content providers include Abbey National and Halifax.

Last October saw the launch of Open's digital interactive TV service, which is backed by BT,BSkyB,HSBC and Matsushita and is available to Sky Digital's 1.8 million subscribers. Retailers which have signed up to provide content include Argos, Dixons, Iceland, Carphone Warehouse and Woolworths.

Last month, Open reported pre-Christmas sales of over [pounds]1m a week.

So, how are direct marketers meeting the advent of interactive TV?

Instant data

According to Oonagh Jobling, planner at Barraclough Hall Woolston Gray (BHWG): "The discipline of examining customer behaviour, attitudes and transactions, gives DM practitioners a head start in working with interactive TV."

Ian Taylor, managing partner at Lowe Direct, agrees: "Interactive TV gives you instantaneous data that you can feed into more sophisticated fulfilment programmes. It is about creating a sequence of interactive stages and developing those into one communication. This is also the principle behind direct marketing."

Lowe Direct is one of a number of DM agencies in the process of establishing a dedicated interactive TV arm. It is working with sister operation, Head New Media, on a technical unit with specialist expertise. Tequila Payne Stracey also has a digital interactive unit, headed by Gray Sycamore, senior digital strategist.

Lowe Direct's Taylor argues that the real benefit of interactive TV is the ability to achieve brand immersion as well as sales: "The dynamism of the moving image, combined with interactivity, makes people involved with the brand. These two things make the perfect opportunity for a direct marketing agency to do its job."

The process of involving viewers in advertising first started with DRTV. DRTV campaigns, now worth more than [Pounds]1bn a year, aim to convert the passive viewer into an active caller and demand high consumer involvement. …

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