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December 18, 2012
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ITV outlines new ad formats for ITV Player

ITV has been explaining some of the new advertising concepts it is bringing to its online catch-up service, ITV Player, and how they will enable viewers to engage more deeply with brands. One of them, ‘Ad Explore’, is already showing its potential in the build-up to Christmas, with the supermarket Asda and the food and clothing retailer M&S running interactive campaigns that offer you additional tutorial videos like how to carve a turkey or how to make Cranberry and Port Sauce.

Ad Explore introduces an interactive overlay that sits in the top right of the video player screen and which viewers can ignore or expand at their discretion. If you expand this bar there is a choice of additional videos. In the current M&S campaign, there is a 2 minute 30 second film on how to prepare your turkey, a 3:11 tutorial on how to carve your turkey and a 1:30 film with Chris Murphy, M&S’s wine expert, explaining Louis Chaurey champagne. If you want even more information, you can link to the M&S website.

This complementary content has real value at Christmas and is one of the best examples of how interactive TV advertising can be used. If you are interested enough you could spend nearly seven minutes with the brand watching original content alone, before returning to the main video advertisement where you began. It looks as if ITV takes account of your interaction time; the final two pre-roll advertisements after our interactive extravaganza measured five seconds each.

Jon Block, Controller of Commercial Digital Products at ITV, who is leading the effort to produce new and compelling formats, is pleased with the impact of Ad Explore so far. He told the Future TV Advertising Forum recently that trial results from the first half of the year, based on five advertisers including M&S, Burtons Biscuits and ebay, resulted in an average of eight interactions per 100 impressions. The most popular call to action is to watch more video. “We believe that is because you are watching video anyway, so you are open to watching some more.”

He showed an Ad Explore advertisement for the new movie The Hobbit with three calls to action: pre-book tickets, download the app or play the full cinematic trailer. “This format is about getting people much more engaged with the advertiser’s content while keeping them in the ITV player environment with familiar icons and buttons,” Block explained. “We are holding viewers’ hands while we introduce them to the fact that if they are interested in the advertising content they can explore it more during the ad break itself.”

Another new format, currently in private trials but due for a public trial next year, will enable viewers to bookmark interactive content to watch later. This feature is called ‘Ad Save’ and acknowledges that it is not always the right moment to spend five minutes pre-booking tickets or watching some extra content, however interesting it is to you.

The private focus groups have been shown the ‘Save for later’ button that will appear in a new menu bar that is now being added to ITV Player at the bottom of the screen. So if someone is interested in Maybelline make up tutorials they can save these and easily return to them on Saturday evening. The principle is  interaction without interruption, Block told the audience of broadcasters, Pay TV operators and advertising executives.

He then provoked laughter with the sheer cheek of ITV’s new ‘Ad Player’ format, which gives viewers the chance to skip a commercial but only if they first answer a multiple choice question about the brand correctly.  “This is a quirky format and some people will get this straightaway and some will hate it,” he told the London audience.

“We wanted a format that works in front of short-form video that could be just a minute long and where you cannot use 30 second advertisements. We wanted to create a format that is skippable but which crucially gives something back to the advertiser when someone chooses to skip.”

He showed an example from the ITV trials where viewers were offered the chance to skip a Coca Cola commercial if they correctly said when the drink maker started sponsoring the Olympics. If someone chooses the wrong multiple choice option they are told they are wrong and have to watch the advertisement to the end. If they see the commercial again and answer correctly, their reward is to skip straight to the show they want to see.

“You are actively engaging the user but rewarding them for brand knowledge so it is quite a positive format. In our private research the answer to the question was included in the VOD creative and we found that after four exposures people got the Ad Play question correct 96% of the time,” Block revealed. “Four weeks later they still remembered, so this really helps to drives home the advertising messages. Memory retention is very high because people have actively engaged with the brand and learned the answer to the question.”

ITV is aware of the danger that ad skipping can reflect negatively on brands, something he thinks is true of the TrueView format (where YouTube lets you skip after watching five seconds). “There, the only interaction you have with the advertising is to say ‘I hate this, get it out of my face’, but Ad Player rewards people for brand knowledge, so is positive. People said it makes the ads more enjoyable and it helped prevent ‘wear out’ if you are serving someone the same advertisement lots of times.”