Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Give viewers what they want

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast September 16, 2011

ITV is capitalising on second-screen interaction.

At the IBC tech-fest, which attracts more than 40,000 TV folks to Amsterdam every year, the subject of second screens and their impact on advertising was a key topic this year.

The new managing director of commercial online for ITV, Fru Hazlitt, captured a lot of people’s attention when she literally threw a brick into the proceedings.

Hazlitt, who has worked for online, radio and TV companies, waved a polystyrene red brick during her presentation, recalling how her father used to throw one at the TV when he was bored or frustrated with the adverts.

Hazlitt’s dad has inspired her to avoid the ‘red brick syndrome’ by using information taken from audience interaction to design more of what viewers want to stop them from proverbially - or otherwise - throwing a brick at the screen.

Of course, she is not alone - broadcasters such as Channel 4 and Sky are also shifting from the traditional advertiser focus to one that centres on what the viewer/user wants.

But Hazlitt’s plan - which seems to be gaining traction because she has not only recast the entire ad department at ITV but is also in charge of the online side - is to innovate faster, incorporating intelligence gathered from online viewers into how ITV’s ads are conceived and delivered.

So a month ago, ITV linked an episode of Emmerdale directly to a call-to-action for the audience to use a second screen.

One of the show’s popular characters, Alan Turner, received a watch as a gift from his village chums. In the following break, an Argos advert played out, asking viewers to identify the page of the retailer’s catalogue that sold this watch and to post their answers at www.itv.com/argos. Correct answers were entered into a £10,000 voucher draw.

Some 40,000 people logged their answers in the first 24 hours. “That’s what I call interaction,” Hazlitt enthused to IBC delegates.

She expects to launch a lot more of this kind of big screen/small screen interaction, and ITV is testing in other areas, including an interactive ad format for its online pre-roll adverts on itv.com/.

One example is a Kellogg’s breakfast cereal advertisement that asks viewers to guess how many calories there are in a bowl of Special K. Correct answers mean the viewer skips the rest of the pre-roll advertisement and goes directly into the television content they want to watch.

“If they get the answer right then it means they got the message,” said Hazlitt. “So who cares if they only watch 10 seconds of the advertisement?”

Hazlitt is aware that the big money is still in the big-screen TV ad, but advocates using the reach of television to enhance what happens online. It’s all about scale, but Hazlitt is betting that giving viewers what they want on their iPads, smart phones, PCs or connected TVs is the best way to grow more targeted advertising.

And that has got to be good for the advertiser and the broadcaster, and will hopefully get people to put down their bricks and pick up their second screens.

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