Why don’t TV commercials link to websites?

You know how printed billboards and press ads often include a QR (Quick Response) code, which we can snap with our smartphones to instantly load the product’s website? Well, I want to know why every TV commercial doesn’t let us do something similar.

This is not a rhetorical question  I genuinely want to know the answer  so please drop me a line or add a comment if you know of anybody who is doing this already, or if there is some obvious reason why its a bad idea.

You might argue that there is no future in TV advertising in an age of PVRs, Netflix and VoD (Video on Demand), but US data suggest it has proved largely immune to competition. At the same time as these alternatives compete for our attention, social media encourages us to share the live viewing experience, particularly for sport, reality TV and new drama such as Sherlock and Downton.

TV is still Americas biggest advertising medium and you would think anything that helped convert casual viewers into online visitors would be seized upon. Online advertising complements traditional media and here is a great opportunity for it to do so.

Lots of TV ads conclude with a website’s URL, so advertisers clearly want us to pay them a visit. I’m sure that many viewers would love to see the trailer for that new movie, read the reviews of that new appliance, find the local dealer for that car, request an insurance quotation or order a holiday brochure. 

Lots of us engage in social media while were watching TV (36% in the UK), so we already have a smartphone or tablet to hand but, by the time we’ve launched our browser and mistyped the URL, it has gone from the TV screen and the moment has passed. Any solution needs to be quick and easy, without the need for any typing.

Are QR codes the answer? I accept that a great big static QR code displayed for ten seconds while we fumble for the right app does not make for good broadcasting, but there is an alternative. Five years ago the Daily Telegraph was adding watermarks (via PhotoShop) to some editorial photographs in its print edition. These are invisible to the naked eye but can serve the same purpose as a QR code. Watermarks are preferred because they are less obtrusive. Unfortunately, in order to alert readers, they had to print a symbol beside the appropriate photos, which rather defeats the object.

In 2012, Fujitsu launched new technology that invisibly watermarks moving video images in a similar way. The same technology could also be used within TV shows:

  • to exploit product placement within TV dramas & movies;
  • to increase conversion rates for retail channels;
  • to link to URLs for stats, background info, etc. for sports shows, news & documentaries;
  • to link to URLs for cast lists, location details, background info, etc. for TV dramas & movies.

This all sounds like the answer to a marketer’s dream, so why has the opportunity not been universally adopted and exploited?

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2 Responses to Why don’t TV commercials link to websites?

  1. Devise a way to copyright this idea. Somebody will.

  2. Pootering says:

    Shazam have spotted this opportunity: http://bit.ly/1igVKUc

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