As I Was Saying

How To Interact During Super Bowl Interactive Ads

2/01/2012 11:34 AM

You can be sure that Comcast’s advertising seers and their minions at Canoe Ventures will be keeping a keen eye on the array of interactive commercials during Sunday’s Super Bowl, carried on Comcast-owned NBC-TV broadcast channel.

With an estimated 60% of viewers holding their smartphones and tablets close at hand, and at least one-third of the commercials “Shazamized” for the two-screen experience, SB XLVI will be a crucible for interactive advertising.

Yes, once again, “This is the year when interactive advertising takes off.”

And thanks to the two-screen environment, along with the convergence of economic and technical factors, maybe that decades-old expectation will actually come true this time. As social TV makes its mark, big automotive and soft-drink commercials are embedding viewer-response options into their Super Bowl spots. The Chevy Game Time app (available for iPhone/iPad and Android devices) lets viewers compete for 20 vehicles and other prizes. Coca-Cola’s polar bears, programmed with countless reactions, will be “puppetted” to respond to game play on the field via the second screen, accessed via Facebook.

Those campaigns, if successful, will keep viewers jockeying between the big and small screens, which is just what advertisers - in their quest for social media engagement - are hoping. Shazam for TV, the app that lets advertisers embed digital info within video ads, is being used by several (not yet identified) Super Bowl advertisers, that will amplify their on-TV ads with targeted mobile content and real-time offers to handset viewers. Promotions will include sweepstakes, lead-generation pitches, special content and free music download offers.

The Super Bowl ad frenzy is part of the escalating two-screen approach, which includes new ventures such as Viggle, a new venture from Function(X) Inc. Viggle is a handset app that rewards viewers when they check in to say they’re watching a TV show, offering prizes such as gift cards, music downloads and movie tickets. We’ve heard of several similar ventures that plan to bring aboard major advertisers for viewer-reward projects based on actual responses to on-TV advertising.

Meanwhile, Comcast’s social TV initiative - the subject of a recently revealed patent application - would reward viewers for encouraging other subscribers to tune into a show they are watching.

We’ve just seen the power of the two-screen ad opportunity. At last week’s ESPN Winter X Games, the worldwide leader used Shazam to interactivate viewer involvement in the sportscasts. Shazam also recently cut a deal with SyFy, USA and E! (not coincidentally all part of the Comcast/NBCU empire) to enhance programs and ads with second-screen information, offers, coupons and deals.

With the New York Giants- New England Patriots game as a powerful stalking horse, Sunday interactivated Super Bowl will be a closely watched - and huge - field trial for the opportunities in two-screen advertising. I asked Canoe Ventures about its views - but, typically, there was no comment since its members are not involved in broadcast programming (which conveniently, of course, overlooks member Comcast’s ownership of a certain broadcast network; hint: its initials are the first letters of the previous three words in reverse order.)

Admittedly, Canoe’s just-below-the-radar interactive advertising objectives and trials are different from the real-world pizzazz of Super Sunday. So let’s watch to see if the two-screen ad assault will offer lessons for future interactive ad campaigns, or if it will be a launch-pad for ads that, beyond the transmission system, don’t particularly need the cable infrastructure.

Just don’t get too much Buffalo wings’ grease on the thumb that controls your iPad interactions.

Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications LLC in Bethesda, Md., and a long-time interactive TV enthusiast. Reach him at GArlen@ArlenCom.com  

September