Semi-Interactive TV

While I certainly don’t endorse MTV or its gratuitous violence or sex, I was fascinated by a show I spotted while channel surfing. The premise of Control Freak (again, linked out of obligation, not endorsement) is a clever one. By putting control of what music videos are played under the control of viewers, MTV is boosting its revenues and reinforcing viewer loyalty.

For those who haven’t seen Control Freak, here’s a brief explanation of how it works. While a music video is playing on MTV2, visitors to the MTV web site are given the opportunity to choose one of three videos to watch next. Each choice’s popularity, along with the time remaining to vote, is displayed next to the video. After the video is complete, the next video – chosen by the audience – starts instantly.

It seems to me that this sort of “instant gratification” could be put to use by other television stations. I could imagine ‘Olelo, O’ahu’s public access cable channels, doing a “Viewer’s Choice” hour during prime time. It would be an effective promotional tool for public access, and all the needed equipment is probably in place – all it’d take is a little glue in the form of computer programming to integrate existing equipment together.

How about an interactive ad? Picture a minute-long spot during the Super Bowl or some other major television production. The company buying the $4 million ad (based on 2003 figures) would set up a funny scenario in 15 seconds, then offer the public the chance to choose the outcome.

Having only a 15 or 30-second window to vote would probably catch some people by surprise, but if ABC aired the game, as they did last year, they already would have the platform they need for this – Enhanced TV.

If I were a savvy marketing executive (which I’m not), I’d find a way to endear people to my ad. Letting them choose the ending seems like a good idea to me. It’s been done before (think Pepsi’s Britney Spears ad), but it’s an idea that can continue to be refined and sped up. People like instant results.