Avoiding Gimmicks in Connected and Social TV Content And Advertising

 The study of emerging TV is fascinating. It is ever moving, ever evolving and  encompasses a plethora of developments that are challenging traditional business models in novel ways. While the movement to a more interactive and social TV experience is inevitable, there should be concern about  wide-spread utilization of what can only be entitled “Gimmicks” that have little value to consumers and may act to slow down the progress of intriguing new mediums, methodology and technology. If we continue to engage in emergent gimmicks and cheapened consumer experiences attrition will occur and impede progress on more useful/fun/engaging/interesting TV experiences. For this reason, I wanted to spell a few of these out. This is a opinion piece and I'll be leaving my typical advertising thoughts out of it.

Gimmick #1- Incentives for Watching:

We‘re seeing a strong increase in 2nd screen apps that incentify television watching behaviors. Their heart is in the right place.You watch, maybe check in, and get a coupon/gift certificate heightening engagement and increasing loyalty, right?

In order to evaluate why this a poor concept in the entertainment world we have to understand why we engage in TV in the first place. We watch to escape, ( For example,check out Jeremy Toeman’s article here)  We watch to learn, we watch to be entertained and we watch to stay informed. I believe however, that these reasons, especially when it comes to premium content are absolutely incongruous with offering incentives to watch. Yes, consumers love incentives, and yes incentives have their place, but our reasons for watching are our incentives and offering more on the side cheapens the experience and confuses the question of driving content loyalty. Not only do incentives have little role for entertainment, I believe they can sometimes cause a loss to brand image. Offering an incentive means that specific TV content isn’t enough on it’s own to drive watching (or 2nd screen)  behaviors and garner program loyaly.It moves the content away from being a premium offering and turns it into a used car lot of entertainment. (However, it might work fantastically for infomercials)  

 Imagine you went to a world renown restaurant and the waiter told you that by eating one meal you weren’t  originally interested in, they would give you a  discount on your appetizer.The meal would take on a new form for you and your motivation for eating it. Rather than being loyal to a great experience, you are being loyal to an incentive. You have lost your main reason for going to that restaurant. It would also appear to cheapen the meal. If it was great, why would they need to provide you with an ulterior reason for eating? Television should be just as much of an experience. We should watch it because it entertains us. It allows us to escape. This isn’t to say we can find places where incentives can be utilized better. For example, if a consumer could play along with Jeopardy and receive prizes for success….There is some real magic to be found, but basic incentive offering just for watching? Well, I placed this as gimmick 1 for a reason.  

#2 Second Screen functionalities that mimic what can be done simply on the web:

I love the possibilities of the second screen. Truly, I believe there is world of potential here that is beginning to actualize. That said, there is also an abundance of pointlessness that in my opinion provides little value to consumers and skews new offerings. An App that leads me to a wiki, or IMDB or any other basic information source for example is my definition of Gimmick. These are tasks consumers can simply do with a few web keystrokes outside of a destination app. They only provide basic and low level effects to deepen the watching experience. One would hope that media and entertainment organizations as well as the development community will quickly move past the above in order to provide more robust functionalities;Interactive content that is unique to an app, Poling, voting,  gamification-  items that can create novel experiences will be items that move consumers.  A focus on the latter  is needed and the former to be abandoned.

#3 Connected TV  Apps that provide no further functionality than mobile Apps.

How to tie a tie.A weather App that mimics a mobile app. These are excellent if we want to drive consumers away from what could be a far more robust  television experience. If I as a consumer can utilize something on a device that is quick and mobile there is little call to action to become engaged with the same experience on a “Smart TV. All connected TV apps, connected tv advertising and related experiences should capitalize on the unique strengths of the medium. As I often lecture about, television provides a large and immersed screen, it allows for endemic group interaction, and can have stunning displays. If we can create Apps that utilize these features or provide for new levels of engagement to traditional TV content, we take advantage of the medium, and separate it from the limitations of other screens.

We have amazing new technologies that can create amazing new experiences. These experiences can serve to draw consumers further into traditional television in unique ways, create new entertainment experiences and heighten interactivity across devices and across the board. Gimmicks set this process back.  We must leverage our new technologies in ways that form long, robust and most importantly valuable consumer experiences.  


Zachary Weiner is the CEO of boutique emerging TV Ad agency CTV Advertising and the Co-Founder of the Connected TV Marketing Association.