Will on Wednesdays: Get Off Your [TV] Ads and Mobilize! - Part 1

([itvt] is pleased to present another installment of our new weekly column from well-known interactive TV industry figure, Will Kreth.)


Apple will show the world's connected TV players how to participate in the Mobile Advertising/Marketing Ecosystem--and most will certainly follow.

Remember 2007? In the blur of our age, it's not a trivial question, right? Here's a hint: It was the year Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. It was also the year that old Continental Airlines debuted the mobile boarding pass. I remember telling a frequent-flying friend at work that I could board a plane at Newark International with a 2D barcode on my phone screen. He seemed dubious.

Since then, more than 95% all of the world's major airlines have adopted mobile boarding passes (source: IATA). And while US adoption among 18-49 users sits at about 4 to 5% (according to Forrester Research), it's trending better than online banking did in the early '90s. Bottom line: it's only going to grow. Just as digital books now outsell print copies, and we no longer use paper maps to guide our travels--behavioral shifts towards enhanced digital alternatives are inexorable.

But we still want convenience--and hunting around in our email queue for that airline boarding pass/e-ticket wasn't fun. So, we opened the mobile app of the corresponding airline and looked for our ticket there. Still not ideal, right?

Then in 2012 came Passbook for the iPhone--Apple's initial foray into the much-prophesized digital wallet. A container to hold all our boarding passes, store loyalty cards, movie/event tickets and coupons in one safe, easy-to-remember central location on our mobile device.

But life hasn't been easy for Passbook. Unfairly dismissed because it wasn't the magical NFC (near-field communication) payment solution (i.e. a wireless digital wallet) that the fanboys/alpha geeks feverishly dreamt about, and rightfully beaten-up in the press for its kludgyUI (e.g., with store loyalty cards, you have to download the retailer's app, then either login to your account or create a new account, and then tell the app it's OK to put your loyalty card into your Passbook--as opposed to simply searching and adding it from within Passbook), Passbook was declared not ready for prime time, and early user (and developer) adoption rates were mediocre.

These quibbles aside, my own experience with Passbook has shown it to be invaluable. Through the "Add To Passbook badge that can be embedded in Web sites, emails and apps themselves, there is a growing awareness that the positives of Passbook far outweigh the negatives. The new iOS 7 version has a barcode scanner built-in for easy capture of passes from print sources. So, whether it was the Eventbrite tickets I've stored there from Meetups, or my CitiField baseball ticket I used to see a Mets/Giants game this year (13 MLB stadiums accepted Passbook tickets this season), Passbook has had my back, with my United flights, my hotel memberships and location-aware Walgreen's card all right there--as handy as can be.  

Lining Up the Chess Pieces

Less a Trojan Horse approach than another example of the long-term, pragmatic game planning of the company, Apple has been slow-rolling Passbook, for good reason. Apple understands that ecosystems are hard to build, user behaviors not so simple to foster, and their preferred role--the one they're oh-so-good at--is not the "first mover," but that of the opportunistic and elegant assembler. iPhone-scale disruptions are rare, and 2007 was also the year that Apple debuted their favorite "hobby" (as Jobs put it): Apple TV.

Here's a quick chronology of how Apple assembled their current catbird seat to potentially change the future of 1:1 TV advertising forever:

Apple TV (2007) > iAd Platform (2010) > Apple Passbook (2012) > iTunes Radio + video Ads (2013)

The missing piece?

Apple TV connects to iPhone's Passbook (2014)

Some of our readers remember the Innovation in Digital Advertising (IDiA) Project and their DiMAS Report 1.0. Released in April 2003, the report featured 35+ US ad and media companies predicting/wishing about the future of TV advertising; and wringing their hands on the addressable future of VOD and DVR ads. And while the squishy currency of TV show hashtags and Likes was definitely not on their radar then, the concept of ad "bookmarking" was. The thinking then is still valid today: "Don't interrupt my viewing experience--let me store and forward this offer for action later."

In 2014, "Passbooking" of iAd avails on Apple TV will be a reality. Expect to see it first with iTunes Radio ads, as the iAd Producer tool already supports it.

Here are a few use cases for the Apple TV user:

  • While watching music videos on their new Vevo app. A lower-third overlay appears to ask "Want a discount coupon for Arcade Fire's new album, Reflektor, on iTunes? Add To Passbook!"
  • While watching the MLB app: "Want a $5 discount coupon on MLB tickets for the 2014 season at your[automatically-inserted local ballpark/favorite team] here? Add To Passbook!"
  • While catching up on a previous season of "Mad Men" on Netflix: "Enter to win a sneak preview of Mad Men's final season. Add To Passbook!"

But it's not just as simple as bookmarking (and forgetting) these prompts. Apple's Passbook passes have access to push notifications, GPS-powered geo-fencing, micro-targeting, auto-refresh of passes--to name a few. Some of these will be advertising messages, but many more will evolve into next-gen content marketing messages--and conversations. Actionable, mobilized marketing messages in the palms of millions of users/viewers. Layer on elements of gamification and digital storytelling, and brands will be able to connect with customers in a more contextually relevant way than ever before.

"We think most mobile advertising really sucks. We want to change the quality of the advertising." – Steve Jobs, iAd launch event, 2010.

Design Matters--Why the Apple TV Remote is perfect for Add To Passbook:

The average new TV remote has about 40 to 58 buttons. The Apple TV remote? Three.  

Sure, they're modal/multi-function, but the core functionality is in the software, not the remote. Apple's navigation UI for TV is one of simple design: minimal "up, down, right, left and select" clicks, offering a low-frustration interaction design experience throughout. Why does this matter in these days before Jobs' dream of a voice-controlled TV? For ITV ads, there's no more important button than "Select." And if you can't find it when the CTA is on screen, you're SOL.

In closing:

  • 8 Apps per day: That's the daily average used by iOS and Android customers. Apple has placed the Passbook app on the iPhone home screen for a good reason. It's residency. It's primacy. It's Location, Location, Location. If you're not one of those 8 daily apps for a lot of people, you're not that essential.
  • Apple did not build the iAd Platform to compete head-on with Google in keyword search advertising, but to out-innovate Google in the areas where Apple is already a strong player. Viewing/listening opportunities with "Add To Passbook" marketing/ad messages are a natural evolution for Apple.
  • It would be unwise for iAds on Apple TV to feel like traditional advertisements--part of the reason why people buy an Apple TV is to avoid advertisements. But if Apple can message and massage viewer expectations with contextually relevant content-marketing messages on behalf of their key content partners--they win.

What we are looking at is nothing less than crossing the delta from buying and selling TV ad impressions to 360° measurable user transactions--across the value-chain. It's not an either/or proposition (anonymous mass advertising versus 1:1 marketing)--both are valid. But let’s face it: the days of Multiscreen Experience Choreography for marketers and advertisers have arrived.

Next week, I'll look at Google Wallet, Samsung Wallet, and how Amazon might respond across their Amazon Prime/Kindle video product line--plus how third-party developers might enable "Add To Passbook" badges on their by HTML5-powered and ACR-ready connected TV's apps.

North America