More Reality, Less TV

We’ve all seen the Miss America Pageant on TV. The contestants — even the winner — look rather small and impossibly perfect, strutting and posing for the spectators at the big event.

As viewers, we may have rooted for our favorite. We likely didn’t feel much of a personal connection, though, being separated by far more than the distance from our eyes to the TV screen or the soft-focus, Vaseline-covered lens.

Somehow, TV has a way of making personalities seem surreal. It’s hard to imagine them as real people and even harder to relate to them when we see them on the screen.

Online, things are a little different. Perhaps it’s the proximity of our faces to the monitor. More likely it’s the fact we’re seeing them outside the usual context or the degree to which we’re allowed inside their world. But celebrities of every ilk just seem more authentic on the Web. That’s one of the reasons they’re being incorporated into so many online advertising campaigns.

To date, online advertisers primarily use video to showcase the personalities associated with their products and services. That has its limitations; rooted in offline media, video ads can induce the same sense of removal that TV spots can.

But what if you could remove that person from the confines of a video screen or banner ad, and make it appear as if she’s addressing the consumer directly? With the help of a company called Rovion, you can.

Launched about five years ago, Rovion offers a suite of products called BlueStream, which allows companies to feature real-life people (famous or otherwise) delivering out-of-the-box streaming video messages on their Web sites. The technology incorporates the blue screen (define) technique used in films and weather segment on your local news broadcast. There’s virtually no limit to how and where BlueStream can be used; consider a clickable Emeril Lagasse peddling his new cookbook on the Barnes & Noble site and a robotic dinosaur and a young boy promoting the toys sold at the Discovery Channel’s online store.

The company recently began positioning its products for advertising rather than just as site enhancements. It’s now partnering with publishers to offer its technology as a rich media ad unit. Next week, you’ll find the reigning Miss America on TVGuide.com (you can preview the placement). Instead of observing as she addresses an in-house crowd on TV, consumers can experience Miss America talking directly to them, personally inviting them to watch the upcoming pageant. Or, they can click on her image to learn more about the contestants and event.

Seeing this TV personality in an online context, surrounded by site content and speaking to the visitor, just seems more personal and engaging than passively viewing her in a video clip or on TV. The concept of incorporating a real-life personality into an online destination also stands to generate tangible sales results.

When the Discovery Store wanted to promote its Mother’s Day gift offerings using Rovion’s product, it conducted A/B testing on its site. Half its traffic was directed to a landing page featuring a person offering gift tips; the other half was sent to a standard page. Nearly 50 percent of visitors to the Rovion-enhanced page watched the video clip to the end. Seven percent clicked, and Discovery Store saw a 78 percent increase in sales on that page versus the page that didn’t feature the Rovion character.

Rovion ads are currently available on such properties as ABC-owned and -operated station sites, Infinity Radio station sites, McClatchy newspaper sites, MediaSpan sites, and TVGuide.com. The company says it’s also in talks with several major portals and additional newspaper and media sites. In the meantime, marketers still have the option of employing its products on their own sites. After all, getting personal with your customers shouldn’t be limited to advertising.

You won’t feel the same connection with Rovion’s rich media Miss America as you would sitting face to face with her over dinner. But she’ll most certainly enhance your online marketing power and make it easier for consumers to relate to your product and campaign.

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