Why TV and Interactive Advertising are the Perfect Partners

I was very excited in last year’s Britain’s Got Talent final. But it wasn’t the world’s oldest acrobatic salsa dancer, or the five-man (or should that be five-boy?) operatic boy-band that had my pulse racing. It was in fact Google Analytics and its real-time tracking that had me riveted to my seat.

During one of the ad breaks, Virgin Media ran an Ad Sync takeover on the Britain’s Got Talent play-along game and it achieved the highest engagement rate I’ve ever seen in interactive advertising. An incredible 78% of people interacted with the creative. Yes, that’s right, 78%. Just to be clear, I’m saying that for every 100 impressions (and there were well over 100k of those!), 78 people interacted with the creative by playing a mini drag-racing game that matched their TV creative. It was so good, 45% of people chose to play again and 19% clicked through to the Virgin Media website.

Josh tweet screenshot

Little did Josh know that his tweet was about to be favourited and retweeted by a handful of ITV/Fremantle executives!

With our Ad Sync format, we regularly see unique interaction rates of 30-60% and click-through rates of 20-30%. When you think that the average interaction rate for mobile rich media display is 0.54% (source: DoubleClick), this is pretty mind-blowing. Okay, well it blows my mind, but I’m a technology geek who works in advertising innovation.

This success isn’t just limited to our second screen play-along games. We also see great success in interactive video advertising (albeit to a somewhat lesser degree) with unique interaction rates of up to 25% and click-through rates of up to 4%. Over the last year or two I’ve spent quite a lot of time pondering this success. Why is it that interactive TV advertising drives such incredible audience engagement?

My conclusions are that it is down to the following 5 ingredients:

1. It’s completely immersive
Interactive TV advertising is completely immersive. Unlike a rich media or banner sitting in the corner of an app or website, TV advertising takes over the whole device, whether on the first screen or the second screen

2. It’s viewed as non-intrusive
Although this is counter-intuitive to the first point, interactive TV advertising is not regarded as intrusive. People understand the value trade-off between watching (or interacting with) content for 15 minutes and the ad breaks that pay for this content. This is a pretty amazing opportunity; we can present people with a full screen advertiser take-over that lasts for between 30s and 3 minutes and people aren’t pissed off. Wow!

3. The advertising appears in an interactive context
Whether on the first screen or second screen, there is an interactive context to the advertising. This is particularly relevant for our play-along games. People have been swiping and clicking for 15 minutes during the show, so when it gets to an ad break, why shouldn’t they continue to swipe and click if the content is interesting enough to them?

4. The power of TV for emotionally engaging an audience
I think we can all agree that nothing beats the power of TV shows for getting an audience in a positive emotional state. But of course, this applies to the adverts as well. A 30s immersive audio-visual experience is the perfect platform to engage emotionally with viewers, enhancing those positive emotions rather than interrupting them.

5. TV and its potential for mass participation
We’re only just beginning to tap into the potential of mass participation with things like Ad Sync game leaderboards and live competitions driven by TV airtime. However it has the potential to be truly transformative. When you have 50,000 people, all engaging with the same brand experience at the same time, you could do some pretty incredible stuff. And I think that although this mainly applies to second screen advertising at the moment, this will change as IPTV becomes more prevalent and dynamically inserted interactive video ads start to be included.

When I consider these ingredients in relation to other forms of advertising, nothing else compares. Although these ingredients do exist in other forms of advertising, they exist independently, or in twos or threes. It’s only interactive TV advertising that brings them together all under one roof, at such scale, and with the right emotional context. And the best thing of all? We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what is possible.