Interactive TV ads have come to the UK. In November, England’s Channel 4 announced plans to introduce the first of such ads in the country, as reported by the Huffington Post. The new arrangement, which launched first on Roku, lets viewers select different ads, see extra content, and click to buy products they see advertised.
The move comes as more than half of all content on the channel is now streamed on connected TVs, according to The Drum. Tal Chalozin, chief technology officer of Innovid, the channel’s partner in the effort, talked up the ad unit as an alternative for marketers plagued by bot fraud.
Channel 4’s Program
In addition to the interactive element, the ad units let advertisers modify their pitches based the consumer’s viewing habits and demographic data from set-top boxes and streaming services like Roku and Xbox. Burberry, Xbox, and Alzheimer’s Research were the first advertisers to use the format, which went live in November. The buying options for the interactive TV ads include push messages that let users buy directly from their phone or tablet or scan a QR code from the TV screen in order to reach a landing page.
The program is Channel 4’s latest innovation: Its digital strategy, which seeks to reach viewers on a variety of digital devices, prompted a 30 percent jump in digital revenues in 2015, according to Broadcasting & Cable, which also reported that the channel’s data-targeted ad solutions now comprise 70 percent of its digital ad revenues.
Lukewarm Response to Click-to-buy
Channel 4 has yet to release sales figures for its interactive TV ads. The industry will watch the figures closely, as past attempts at click-to-buy TV ads have met with little success. The idea, which has been summarized as “buying Jennifer Aniston’s sweater,” by Reuters, has been around since the early 2000s (see this Fortune article) and everyone from Time Warner to Barry Diller has tried it. Amazon also gave it a go in 2008 with a program called Watch, Click, Buy with TiVo.
Despite big name backing, consumer response was lukewarm. TV ads generally interrupt the viewing experience; consumers aren’t in buying mode while watching like they are when they browse the Internet. Or, it might be that consumers aren’t in the habit of clicking to buy things they see advertised on TV. One exception is Apple TV, which lets viewers buy TV shows and movies a la carte. Programs like Channel 4’s will demonstrate whether those habits can be changed.