How TV-To-Smartphone Will Change Television – And Challenge Ad Agencies

Television, meet the smartphone. We currently live our lives bouncing between two worlds – offline and online. We watch TV, read signs at malls and outdoor events, but it is almost completely disconnected from our online world (“smartphone and tablet” in most cases). The only connector between the two is the QR Code, a wonderful legacy technology.

Offline to Online – O2O – is a holy grail for home shopping networks, sports TV, outdoor digital (think Times Square and concerts) and even industry (imagine “speed scanning items” at a port or supermarket).

TV-To-Mobile First!

The TV business model is “in a world of pain”, thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime and fragmented delivery platforms. On the other hand, we are in a golden era of television content. Viewers are winning big with more options than ever. Even smaller TV networks that in the past focused on re-runs are producing their own shows.

The challenges facing TV are twofold:

  • TV needs to engage and interact with audiences.
  • TV ads are not measurable.

The smartphone is the “highest common denominator” for consumers. It is the most capable device that almost all of us own. TV has a huge audience, but no way to connect in real-time. Innovative TV networks have mobile apps that offer news and programming schedules and information. The challenge is to connect from TV to smartphone in real-time (“at the speed of mobile”). This will allow TV viewers to:

  • Point and Vote (reality shows)
  • Point and Learn More
  • Point and Purchase (for home shopping networks and TV commercials)

The viewer points his or her smartphone to the TV, and relevant content instantly appears on the smartphone.

The second challenge facing TV is obvious to online marketing professionals. Everything I do as a VP Marketing at a startup is measurable. There are numbers and results associated with every campaign I run. Not so on TV. The only two “calls to action” on TV are “Dial …” or “Visit our website.” Nothing is trackable on TV ads. You don’t know how many people called the car dealership or visited the restaurant.

“It’s branding, not the same as measurable ads,” the ad agencies reply. Sounds like an industry about to be disrupted. Consumers want to receive special offers, reserve a test drive, or buy the $19.99 kitchen accessories. Why stop them? The future TV advertising model will be hybrid – lead generation and branding.

The TV to smartphone connection is a win-win for broadcasters and consumers. Broadcasters need a new gameplan for increased revenues, and they are on the hunt for O2O technologies. Consumers will be able to sit on the couch and interact with the television, even within the content – say, a sports fan reading more about the basketball game or a voting for the best singer on a reality show.

O2O Continues Beyond TV

The television is the first step in connecting offline to online. There is much more to come. O2O is essentially the “activation switch of Internet of Things”. Outdoor digital screens will allow us to “point and learn more” while on the go. Industry and manufacturing will track product movement more efficiently than ever.

In 2017, the offline and online worlds will come closer together, and we will be using our smartphones to “point and connect” with everything around us.


About the Author
Kenny Sahr is a startup marketing executive. His first startup, founded in 1996, was featured in Time Magazine and on 60 Minutes. Kenny moved to Israel from Miami, Florida. In his spare time, he is an avid music collector and traveler.
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