Is shoppable TV the future?

While experts continually discuss the supposed death of TV, shall it be resurrected with a greater focus on direct response advertising?
30 May 2019
old television
kirsty cooke
Kirsty
Cooke

Head of Digital Content

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NBC Universal (also Bravo, Telemundo, E! and USA Network) has just launched a product called ShoppableTV, a solution for brands that lets consumers instantly buy products when they see them on their TV screens. Hold a phone up to the TV during pre-defined ‘shoppable’ moments, and use the camera to take a picture of a good old QR code. The code will take you to the product page on the retailer’s website – so you can buy it. But is TV built for direct response advertising? Is shoppable telly the future?

Jane Ostler, media and digital expert at Kantar, says: “Back in the day, brands would encourage you to call an 0800 number, and buy the product they were advertising. Today, the method might be scanning a code – but it’s a similar idea. I can see why they are working hard in the face of massive competition from direct-to-consumer commerce via Facebook and other social channels. However, on social media you tend to be more ready and willing to shop. It’s easy to suddenly develop the urgent need to buy a dress from a Facebook or Instagram ad, but perhaps less so from a TV spot.”

“It may bring some new brands into TV advertising, and it may inspire new commercial models (such as where the advertiser pays commission to TV company on sales).”

Andy Brown, head of Kantar’s Media division, agrees. “This is direct response, but potentially an easier mechanism for consumers. Instead of measuring the cost per call, brands will look at cost per website visit. Indeed, there is good evidence from Thinkbox that TV is effective at driving web traffic (notably organic search).”

While QR codes might feel a bit dated in some parts of the world, in countries like China they are a popular and well recognised form of connecting content and commerce. The next stage could be image recognition – an even slicker customer experience, where a photo is all you need to get from advert to action.

Alternatively, audio can be picked up to take consumers to a webpage. “Responses can be triggered via watermarked or audio-matched ads,” says Andy Brown. “In UK, the biggest player is Shazam for audio matching. In fact, a Kantar watermarking technology is being used to identify addressable ad versions for audience measurement in the UK.”

Of course, even with clear instructions, consumers might perform a web search that takes them to a competitor or down a content rabbit hole – so those hoping to tie advertising spend with results will be keen on the QR code idea. While QR codes might feel a bit dated in some parts of the world, in countries like China they are a popular and well recognised form of connecting content and commerce. The next stage could be image recognition – an even slicker customer experience, where a photo is all you need to get from advert to action.

Alternatively, audio can be picked up to take consumers to a webpage: responses can be triggered via watermarked or audio-matched ads.

Relatively few TV adverts now feature a website URL (just 16% of ads tested in the US and 7% in the UK). These levels have halved in the past five years. Among those ads that do feature a website URL, Link ad testing has found there is no correlation between respondents recalling the URL and being persuaded to purchase. This shows that it’s not sufficient to provide a way to respond, it’s also important to link this to reasons why someone should act.

Further data from Kantar shows that TV’s contribution to purchase intent (22%) is not as big as its contribution to awareness (28%). That’s based on 34% of advertising investment. Other channels are more efficient at driving purchase intent. Point of Sale delivers a 16% contribution for just 9% of media spend, for example.

Kantar has tested thousands of ads that look for a direct response and found that the fundamental requirements are little changed. Direct response ads still need to be engaging, well branded and deliver a meaningful impression, otherwise they have little chance of building a brand or encouraging action.

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