The Engagement Story

Ideas April 14, 2011 8:34 pm

Shouldn't all advertising sparkle?

Oh my goodness! I have such wonderful news to share with you… my engagement story! I’ve just been so excited I couldn’t concentrate long enough to sit down at the computer- this past Monday, I was having quite the mundane night- I went to the gym, came home and ate reheated leftovers, and started a marathon round of laundry.  I had just started watching Castle when all of the sudden…

I saw an ad that was really engaging!

Ok, ok, so I’ll admit- that was a really cheap way to try to get you to read this post, but if you go back and read the opening paragraph again, I never said what type of engagement I was excited to tell you about.  Sure, it may have been a bit misleading, but hopefully it caught your attention….because my whole point in exclaiming about engagement was to try and shake things up a bit, keep you on your toes, and get you to engage with this post.

After all, isn’t that what advertising should do?  Engage us and entertain us?  Problem is, most advertising doesn’t engage us at all– a) because it’s safe, bland, and mediocre at best and b) because we don’t even both to watch it.

But what if advertisers stopped playing it so safe and started mixing things up a bit? I’m thinking of just how boring and predictable most TV advertising is- we’ve been trained to know just about how long a commercial break will be, so we flip around channels without fear of missing our favorite show.  We know that if we see a channel promo instead of a commercial, our show is about to start again.  We know that a commercial will probably be 60 sec. or 30 sec.  And we know that if we watch the show later on DVR or On Demand, we can probably just fast-forward through these commercials.

How engaging is that? Where’s the incentive, the motivation to watch a commercial? And I know what you’re thinking… but that’s how it’s always been done!  We can’t just change break structure and show format!  Oh really? Why not?  And what would happen to our ROI metrics?  Why not just change them? Sure, it would be a challenge to shake things up- but there are always different ways to format a show, measure ROI… do anything! if you’re willing to just step out on a limb and try something different.

So here are a few of my ideas to try to make TV commercials (and programs!) just a bit more engaging– besides just changing up the show formats and break lengths:

1) Facebook Games- Many TV shows have successful branded Facebook games.  Some channels have even pre-premiered the games on Facebook before premiering the shows on TV.  Why not leverage the success of these games during a telecast?  The channel could promote a new season of a popular series by using the Facebook game.  Leading up to the season premiere, the channel would publicize a Facebook game contest- during the season premiere, viewers could play the game online and during commercial breaks, two things would happen- promos would remind viewers to play the game and a leaderboard for the game would be displayed.  The goal of the contest? The top player(s) at the end of the show- announced at the end of the show during a final commercial break- would win a trip/car/cash/guest spot on the show/anything–the opportunities are endless.  If channels can (and already do) display online/mobile quiz results during commercial breaks, why not display Facebook leaderboard stats?

Why I think the idea has potential: The show has now become social and has been taken multi-platform.  Viewers have incentive to watch the show and commercials- to find out if they are on top of the leaderboard- and have to stay until the end of the show to find out the results.  The channel also has the opportunity to promote a multi-platform viewing experience and engage with viewers through Facebook.

2) QR Codes- Everyone has a smartphone, why not make good use of them? QR codes could be hidden in commercials or even the program itself- an advertiser would sponsor the QR codes, with the benefit to the advertiser being that when viewers take a picture of the code a branded microsite launches on their phone.  Before the special show, the channel or advertiser would tease the special show and tell viewers to look out for QR codes- and tell them that they incentive for them to take pictures of the QR codes could be to win points, badges, etc- think like a ‘treasure quest’ type game.  The more QR codes a viewer can find, the more points they get, which they could trade in for prizes.  Commercial breaks could give viewers ‘clues’ as to where to look for the QR code in the upcoming show segment or commercial.  Let’s say the advertiser was a telecom company like AT&T- when a viewer finds the QR code and takes a picture of it, a branded microsite extolling the virtues of a smartphone loads and the viewer can enter her name to track her points- the quest could be to earn a certain number of points for a discount for a new phone or any other great prize.  Or for an advertiser with a charitable mission, like the Pepsi Refresh Project, taking a picture of the QR code would take viewers to a microsite where they can vote on their favorite Pepsi Refresh project.

Why I think the idea has potential: QR codes are everywhere, why not use them on TV, too- especially when there is a real incentive for viewers to interact with the code.  You’re also adding a social interaction layer with the QR code, further engaging your viewers with the commercial and program.  By ‘hiding’ the QR codes and giving viewers clues during commercial breaks, the viewers have an incentive to stay during the commercial.

Are there major operational hurdles to these ideas? Lots.  But I think we often get too hung up on the challenges, rather than the opportunities, that a ‘different’ idea can bring to the advertising environment.  Why not for once think about how we can make that quirky idea work, rather than dismiss it because it will be a challenge?

It’s time to get engaged!


  • Paul Biedermann

    Congratulations on your engagement, Allie — love it!

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