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"Remote Control Marketing": Don't Interrupt. Interact.

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The conventional 30-second television commercial hasn't changed in over 50 years. The time has come.

Technology not only allows us to consume information, news, entertainment and more with a mouse click, but with the remote control.

Enter Remote Control Marketing©, in which viewers are invited to use their TV remote to get product information, receive samples, request coupons, play games, cast votes and watch exclusive video. Without ever leaving the couch.

With TV viewing at its highest point in history, according to Nielsen, television still rules the nation. The average American household spends eight hours and 27 minutes in front of the television. Per day. But thanks to digital technology we're watching it differently -- whatever, whenever, and wherever we want. That instant gratification has been a gift for viewers, but vexing for marketers desperately vying for their attention.

This presents a quandary for TV advertisers, as attention is scarcer than ever due to an abundance of channel choices and new screens, both mobile and online. Much of their focus has shifted to online marketing, but outside of paid search advertising, the Internet hasn't yet proven to be an effective advertising medium. Most recently, "social media" has become all the rage among advertisers. Although it is undoubtedly social, it hasn't performed well as an ad medium. Maybe that's because cramming ads into social networks is like having a door-to-door salesman show up at your backyard pitch insurance.

The arrival of digital TV technology is the wake-up call for TV advertisers because it enables a new way to communicate with their constituents. The operative word here is communicate, as in, an interchange of information or idea. In other words, a two-way exchange.

The most forward-thinking marketers, like Burger King, Sony, Ameritrade and Unilever, are already using Remote Control Marketing. Unilever, named "Digital Marketer of the Year" by leading trade publication Ad Age, is one of the largest advertising spenders in the world. They use "interactive" TV commercials for Dove, Degree, Axe, Bertoli, Slimfast, Promise and 20 other brands.

Remote Control Marketing is generating millions of voluntary views per week and hundreds of thousands of sweepstakes entries and coupon requests. Perhaps most tellingly, audiences are willingly choosing to spend significant time -- often between three and ten minutes -- impulsively interacting via the remote. Depending on their lifestyle interests they can get recipes, seek cholesterol information, watch entertaining videos, play games, even open accounts.

Like many innovations, however, Remote Control Marketing is flying somewhat under the ad world radar. Its application and potential are not yet fully understood, particularly by the major media buyers. Change apparently comes slowly in the advertising business, but advertisers who understand what it takes to maximize their target viewer's involvement will dominate in the race to digital ad effectiveness. Done right, TV wins that race hands down. 

The market leaders have already figured out what others will eventually come to realize: why make ads that viewers can't engage with? Randal Rothenberg, President of the Interactive Advertising Bureau recently said, "Interactive TV's a big wave that's already coming to shore. Major brand marketers are chomping at the bit for this, because they're comfortable with big screen entertainment."

It's certainly proving effective for Unilever. To VP, General Manager Kevin George, TV interactivity is more than just a watchword. It provides "a lot more value than our traditional TV ad spend." Their initiatives can reach into 75 million homes and the available measurement data reveals how many, how often, and how long viewers tune in. "What it let's us do is get much more advanced in terms of accountability in the space, which is really important in today's environment of return on investment".

The key to its inevitable success is understanding that what makes Remote Control Marketing work is what it does for viewers. Only when it serves their needs and interests will marketers be able to attract their voluntarily participation with the remote control. When they do, the benefits are big and mutual. After all, they're holding onto them for 8 hours and 27 minutes a day. ***