On your mark, get set, click: Depending on what program
they were watching, consumers could have just won a $5,000 rebate on their next purchase
of a Ford Motor Co. car, a $15 rebate after ordering two pies from Domino's Pizza LLC, or
gotten stock quotes on-demand while watching Bloomberg Television, provided they were
watching interactive advertisements.
"We want system integration," RespondTV Inc.
president Richard Fisher said. "When someone clicks, the intelligence should be in
the box. This is a remote-control experience."
Founded initially as B3TV in October 1998 with a focus on
bringing interactivity to television audiences, San Francisco-based RespondTV is bringing
real-time electronic commerce to the viewer.
The company hosts and services programming and advertising
enhancements synchronized as an interactive overlay on top of television programs, thus
allowing companies to precisely target consumers based on their geographic profiles.
Essentially, all consumers have to do is point and click
their remotes to get more information about what is on the screen, Fisher said. In turn,
RespondTV handles the transactions and reports the results back to advertisers and
broadcasters, which have expressed satisfaction with consumers' responses so far.
RespondTV has struck deals with an impressive list of
advertisers thus far, including Bloomberg, Ford, HotJobs.com Ltd., CDnow Inc. and
Domino's. In the works are deals with Chris-Craft Industries Inc. and Scripps Networks.
While Alameda, Calif.-based rival Wink Communications Inc.
is further along in cutting partnership deals, Wink has also had to develop special
software to please its advertisers, Fisher said. RespondTV uses technology that is already
in existence, like Microsoft Corp.'s "WebTV Plus" and EchoStar Communications
"This is technology off the shelf," he added.
"You don't have to put anything special in the headend."
E-commerce works through consumers' set-top boxes, allowing
consumers to gain access to Internet sites.
RespondTV expects its technology to be in between 1 million
and 3 million homes by the end of the year.
Wink has gone the extra mile to please its advertisers,
having forged agreements with the four major broadcast companies, film studios and large
automakers, executive vice president of sales and business development Allan Thygesen
"This is where the distinction comes," he added.
"We deliver an interactive-ad enhancements. What Respond has done is link consumers
to the Web site."
Thygesen said Wink expects to be in about 3 million homes
by the end of the year.
At the end of the fourth quarter of 1999, about 1,000
enhanced commercials had aired featuring Wink's technology -- which consists of clicking
on a small icon that appears on-screen indicating that additional information is available
or that the consumer has a chance to purchase an item -- he added.