Is the future of TV ads really interactivity?

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

The other day my Hulu show streaming on my Roku was given me an option:

Click here and watch 30 seconds and interact with an ad


Watch 90 seconds of multiple ads

The first time I saw this I didn’t even bother opening up the Roku app on my phone to push ok. That seemed like a lot of work and I don’t even know who the advertiser is!

The longer commercials ran like they’ve done for decades and I fiddled on my phone while they did. It wasn’t like I was paying much attention to them.

The next time I got the prompt, I clicked into the interactive ad to see.

Ok. Where am I? The experience was highly confusing. The font was hard to read and it was a brand I knew nothing about. Is this a video game? No idea.

Interactivity works when you don’t have to think. That’s why Twitter and other social media can be so addictive. You just release to scroll and and scroll and scroll. It’ll never stop if you let it.

But this interactive ad was confusing. One button said “buy” – I think. The font! But buy what? And why?

Interactive ads must be clear! Really any ads do. Or any communication!

What worries me the most though is that interactive ads will be held up to that hard to achieve goal of conversion.

How many people clicked? Few!

How many engaged longer than a few second? Hardly anyone!

While the older regular TV commercials are often mostly measured on reach, these interactive ads will have to show clicks. Or purchases.

Of course, traditional commercials have calls to action and sometimes they even work. “Enter Hulu at check out.”

I was reminded of this when I was speaking with a group of pharma marketers in New York City. They were reporting purchase coming in every time a TV commercial ran and had a trackable coupon code.

That’s good to know, but I bet the number of purchases was just a small portion of everyone watching. The more people see the commercial, the more people will do whatever the call to action is.

Is there a place for interactive TV commercials?

Of course, but I think it depends on the device.

I remember the first time I ran an ad campaign on Pandora.

The ads on desktop performed so-so.

The interactive ads on mobile were rockstars.

Why? Because people were already looking at their phones. People are more likely to take an action on their phone over their TV screen. And some of the clicks were probably accidental, too.

Now, if there was a way to move the interactive ad from my TV to my phone I may be more likely to click along. If the clicking makes sense.

Getting reconnected to my TV, stopping whatever I’m doing on my phone and then taking whatever actions that interactive ad wants me to take seems like a lot of work. Too much.

There certainly is a place for them but for them to truly work the action needs to be relevant to the audience and of course needs to hit enough audience members to get the few to take that action.