Click on TV for ads

Posted by: Stephen Baker on December 15, 2004

Just got off the phone with a Boston inventor named Neil Fairbanks. Heís patented an advertising technology that integrates Web links into a video. So say youíre watching an episode of Friends. (Itís easier at this stage if youíre watching it on your computer.) You can put the cursor on Rossís red sweater and click, and youíre transported to the e-commerce Web site that can sell you that exact item.(Donít worry. If youíre shorter or fatter than Ross, you can probably buy it in your own size.)

In the demo I saw, Fairbanks had the whole Friends apartment wired with these links. I didnít follow them all, but it didnít take long to get the idea. Click Monicaís hair and you go straight to Revlon, or maybe Head and Shoulders. Follow Chandler and Ė who knows? Ė you might end up at Weight Watchers. In another demo, I watched a Nascar event, where the links led to the car company sites.

Advertisers, we all know, are eager to avoid zappers. They want to put their products into shows and make them interactive. But how many viewers are going to want to interrupt what theyíre watching for a shopping tour? OK, maybe QVC viewers will like it. But millions of TV watchers (including me) are moving to TiVo precisely to get away from ads.

Still, my thinking is that some form of these links will find their way into what we watch. But Iím betting that instead of clicking on things to buy, itíll catch on in the context of games and contests. Imagine a contest where viewers who click on the 14 Disney items planted in a sitcom win a $50 discount at a Disneyland hotel. Or how about guessing contests for baseball fans watching a game? Predict Pedro Martinezís pitches through an entire inningócurve, fastball, change, splitter. The fan who gets the most right wins a free dinner someplace.

Of course, part of the magic is that that fan, and everyone else hoping to win, has to sign up first. And the media company amasses a giant data base. Theyíll even know which pitches we prefer.

Will Fairbanks get rich of of U.S. patent 6,636,237 B1? He says heís talking to four major media companies. Whether he hits the jackpot or not, these links are going to become part of our lives as TV and the Internet mesh, and advertisers scrounge on these combined media to connect.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://blogs.businessweek.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/

Reader Comments

bperry

June 21, 2005 11:43 AM

Looks like they now call it "hotspotting" and Business 2.0 picked it up in the June 2005 issue. Looks like they want to embed it movie trailers...product placement in online games will probably see it next...7-11 and Taco Bell maybe

Post a comment

 

About

BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

Categories

 

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!