Well before the rise of smartphones, Bravo made a bet and began investing in interactive or participation television. What began as simple text messaging polls has become a cross-platform experience that transcends live, and now taped shows that encourage engagement with viewers, fans, and followers alike.
The opportunity to connect the traditional sit-back-and-relax TV viewing experience with mobility is one of the more promising side effects of multi-screening. Bravo's view of this ever-converged world has led to ongoing rollout of Play Live, a technology that first premiered live in November on "Watch What Happens Live."
Now brands are stepping in, beginning this month on "It's a Brad Brad World" with Old Navy as a flagship sponsor of live broadcast content in the form of an interactive commercial, animated logos, its spring tagline, and other branding across the Play Live platform on mobile, tablet, and online. The clothing brand is also exclusively sponsoring four of the show's episodes this season.
"Bravo's particularly blessed because our shows really lead themselves to participation," says Lisa Hsia, EVP of digital at Bravo. "There is no more avid fan than a 'Housewives' fan with a mobile at the end of their hand."
She calls Play Live "a new phase in interactive TV in what we're calling participation TV." The cable network is particularly excited about the new integration on "It's a Brad Brad World" because it marks the first time that live results will be embedded and updated in real time during a taped program.
Play Live drove an average engagement span of 10 minutes across web, mobile, and tablet during "Watch What Happens Live," Hsia says, adding that it also drives live viewing of the show, which of course increases the value of interactive ads running during the program.
"It not only allows the fans to play along with the show in an easy way without downloading an app or logging in to (a social site)…it also allows the ad to be interactive," says Hsia.
"We're still at the baby steps of what the interactive ad could become," she continues. "Theoretically, it could make our promos real time…This technology could overlay so you could make them more real time."
After being approached by Bravo to be one of the first advertisers on Play Live, Brent Mitchell, senior director of marketing at Old Navy, tells ClickZ that the clothing retailer specifically chose "It's a Brad Brad World" and then quickly decided to take the partnership even further with Brad Goreski, the show's lead character. "It went beyond just the opportunity to participate in Play Live," says Mitchell. "We took the partnership with Brad even further. We created some custom ads with him that premiere on Bravo and we're doing in-market events with Brad" acting as an occasional spokesman.
"Right now everyone is thinking about social TV and we all know that when people are at home watching TV they have another device out," says Mitchell. "What is exciting about this opportunity is our advertisement being interactive is part of the experience as well…We're actually able to be part of the interaction on the mobile device and be part of that whole experience."
During the commercial spot, Goreski shares styling tips featuring Old Navy's collection of hoodies for spring and viewers are asked to vote on questions such as their favorite place to wear hoodies. Results are then displayed live during the 30-second spot.
"Part of it is just to engage our customer in a more meaningful and more exciting experience than you're maybe used to from Old Navy," says Mitchell.
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Matt Kapko has been writing about mobile since 2006, before it became cool. Based in Long Beach, CA, he has covered mobile entertainment, digital media, marketing, and advertising for several business media outlets. A former editor and reporter for RCR Wireless News, paidContent, and iMedia Connection, Matt is a regular freelance reporter for ClickZ. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattKapko or drop him a line at email@example.com.
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