What’s the Deal With Participation TV?

You can’t turn on a television these days without finding at least a couple reality shows. Those programs are making an impact in mobile, as well. Participation TV (PTV) is one of the hottest and fastest growing areas of mobile marketing.

According to the Mobile Marketing Association’s (MMA’s) “Annual Attitude and Usage Study,”, released earlier this year, participation in voting campaigns increased from 8 percent in 2005 to 29 percent in 2006. Voting campaigns and initiatives receive, by far, the highest amount of consumer interaction of any mobile marketing form. The trend is set to continue.

According to Telephia, Americans sent nearly 35 million text messages in Q1 2007, generating roughly $35 million in revenue. One reason is many PTV initiatives offer incentives or prizes that encourage engagement; the shows also enable viewers to interact with their favorite content, an obvious draw. Couple those with programs that teach consumers how to interact and engage with their devices. The shows, in effect, walk consumers through the steps required to participate in a voting campaign and interact with their devices.

Companies like CBS, Endemol, NBC, and Telescope Inc. are working together to launch PTV initiatives that put consumers in the driver’s seat. All campaigns are expected to adhere to the MMA’s “Consumer Best Practices Guidelines,” which defines the base set of rules for PTV.

A few key guidelines for interactive television:

A premium charge call to action integrated with programming may be a single opt-in when the call to action contains the following conditions:

  • A Mobile Originated message with a premium price of $0.99 or less.
  • Interaction is transaction-based messaging, not subscription-based.
  • On-air call to action and advice of charge need to be clearly stated, both visually and verbally…
  • If there is a limit to the number of votes a subscriber may submit to the program, this limit needs to be communicated once the subscriber has passed the limit.

The industry has worked together to ensure the guidelines reflect industry demands, support sustainable growth, and protect the consumer experience as well as the industry. The guidelines are evaluated every six months to ensure they address the needs of both the industry and consumers. The MMA also recently launched a PTV committee, comprising representatives from across the ecosystem, which will work to ensure best practices are enforced and the industry grows in a responsible and effective manner, ultimately protecting all in the value chain.

What makes a successful PTV initiative? As with all mobile marketing campaigns, integrating the mobile call to action within a cross-media marketing initiative is key. In PTV, the mobile call to action can be integrated into television, print, the Internet and so on, to drive consumer participation in the program. Since the early days of “American Idol,” a number of best practices have been gleaned, including:

  • Teach consumers how to use their devices. Educate them on how to text and vote at least once during the program.
  • Communicate all deal terms to consumers so they’re aware of any costs associated with their participation, as well as any prizes they may receive or be eligible for as part of their participation.
  • Always provide an alternative means of entry through the telephone or the Internet.
  • Integrate mobile call to action throughout program. Create an atmosphere in which viewers feel they’re part of the overall show experience rather than simply placing a mobile call at the end of the show. A successful program makes viewers feel they have influence or control over the show’s outcomes.
  • Ensure the mobile call to action is integrated into the media used to promote the program.

As PTV grows and the number of shows leveraging an interactive element increases, it’s imperative all players be proactive about adhering to guidelines and best practices to protect the industry’s continued viability.

As the number of consumers interested in engaging with their favorite programs and content increases, media companies will continue to experiment to provide more to their viewers. Voting, sweepstakes, polling, games, and trivia are just some of the tactics that have been deployed to connect programs to viewers. PTV is one of the many ways the mobile channel continues to be leveraged to engage consumers and drive overall brand awareness…and revenue!

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