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Remote Control as Mouse: TV and Web Integration

  |  January 22, 2008   |  Comments

Interactive TV spots are no distant reality. They're here. Now.

For years, we've been hearing about how one day television and the Internet will come together and your set-top box will act as a gateway to Web-based content and services in addition to your favorite shows. That day is much closer than you think, and for many people, including myself, it's already here and has been for quite a while. If it's not happening for you yet, it will. You're most likely already being trained to use your remote control as a mouse. Do you have cable? Just look at the remote. A typical remote these days has buttons that include "up," "down," "left," "right," and "OK" (great for navigating a menu screen), as well as selections that include "menu," "guide," and more.

One of the companies driving TV/Web integration and the remote's evolution into a mouse is Verizon. The Verizon FIOS remote control is literally a remote, mouse, and even keyboard, equipped to surf, interact, and transact with content and sites that are served via the Web. See it for yourself on page 18 of this PDF download, or watch Verizon's demo on its interactive guide. Its potential will become clear to you.

Verizon describes its remote by saying, "Navigation is intuitive and can be done with the remote control's arrows and 'OK' button or by using the remote's shortcut keys." (Kind of sounds like a mouse and keyboard, right?)

It also has a button for widgets that serve up weather, traffic, and other local information via the Web. The Verizon widgets have been around since 2006 and truly represent a melding of Web-based content with the television screen. Verizon's site describes its Web-based widget service like this:

Now Verizon's cable box/Web integration rollout is really starting to propagate and there are enough people getting enabled with the technology that it should start to present some pretty amazing marketing opportunities that can be facilitated with pretty standard Web technology.

In a Verizon press release issued last week, Shawn Strickland, VP of video solutions, said, "Our new interactive media guide is the latest exciting development from FiOS TV...We've capitalized on our investment in an ultra-fast, highly responsive fiber-optic network to deliver a customer experience that marries the best interactivity of the Web with the highest-quality programming experience in the marketplace. The interactive media guide erases the lines between TV, Internet and personal media, and makes it easy for customers to personalize and enjoy media throughout their homes."

That's a pretty amazing statement, especially "The interactive media guide erases the lines between TV, Internet and personal media."

What does this mean for online marketers and advertisers? It's an opportunity to truly integrate off- and online in ways we've never done before and to yield unprecedented results for a standard TV spot.

It may also mean PPC (define) rates for cable ads, on top of the insertion fee, and other revenue opportunities for the cable operators. (Could Verizon end up generating a huge amount of PPC revenue like Google does?)

Imagine this: You watch a TV commercial, and it prompts you to visit a site on screen by clicking "OK" on the remote. You press "OK" and your show pauses (as with a DVR). You request info or even click to order a product, then continue watching your show. As for billing, the charge could show up on your cable bill or be charged to the credit card the cable provider has on file.

This will open up an incredible response mechanism that will add a whole new dimension to :15, :30, and :60 spots. It will certainly revolutionize long- and short-form DRTV (define). Soon, you'll literally just click a "more" or "buy" button on your remote to get products or information delivered to your front door or e-mail inbox. Television spots will have the same level of accountability and tracking potential as Web ads.

Think it sounds far off in the future? From what I can see, the technology's ready to go right now. All that's missing is a critical mass of users to spur advertisers into action. However, if Verizon and the other cable providers have their way, that situation won't last long. We'll see some pretty amazing interactive advertising campaigns come though our TVs.

I can't wait!


Harry Gold

As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.

Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.

Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.

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