It should not come as too much of a surprise that Sky has chosen to put Red Button advertising out of its misery. Channel 4 has already discontinued the service, though the ads will continue through Virgin Media, UKTV and ITV for the time being.
Interactive television continues to have a rocky ride. Commercial broadcasters have failed to monetise the majority of the add-on features that the Red Button gives them and have been largely scaled back. This leaves us with the occasional option to hear an alternate soundtrack, watch a different tennis match, or check out the weather forecast. The BBC even dropped its News Multiscreen from DTT as part of last year’s reshuffle ahead of the launch of high definition services on Freeview.
The rise of the modern internet – I appreciate there isn’t really an old fashioned one – has coincided with the appearance of digital teletext services. But broadcasters would much rather point their audiences in the direction of their websites. The potential resurgence seems to be in widgets, half of which offer exactly the same services that are available through digital text, and the hybrid broadcast broadband environments.
Back in the day you did not have to be at a conference for very long before hearing tales of the famous Rimmel ad – a cosmetics promotion that has since passed into interactive TVfolklore following the magnificent response it produced– was mentioned. The Rimmel experience told of how easy it was to under estimate exactly how many samples you might need one customers had agreed to share their data.
A health product for those of senior years that had 5,000 samples to give away reached 111% of its target in the first day of the campaign, proving that older viewers will use the red button. But over the last two years, perhaps as audiences became more sophisticated, interest has faded.
When following the story earlier in the week I struggled to remember when I had last seen an interactive advertisement. There was an incident when my colleague Robert Briel ordered a holiday brochure in my absence – the result was a thud through the letterbox some three weeks later. But the main problem is that when like more than half Sky’s installed base, when you have a PVR you don’t see the button in the first place.
The Green Button telescoped ads touted as a possible replacement potentially suffer from the same fate. It doesn’t matter if you can see a longer version of the commercial if you miss the trigger in the first place. The solution may be to replace the superimposed icon with something burnt into the commercial itself, even so blink and you miss it as the ads go wizzing by.