Gail Cookson: Making the most of smart TV

The growing penetration of internet-enabled TVs provides a new opportunity for fundraisers, says the strategy partner at Watson Phillips Norman

Gail Cookson
Gail Cookson

An extraordinary summer, of pageantry as well as sport, coupled with the digital switchover this year, has seen many people in the UK upgrading their televisions to HD and 3D sets, as well as smart (internet-enabled) TVs. And although the average charity donor might not be a sports fanatic or even a royalist, the forecast that smart TVs will be in everyday use by 2014 should be enough to make fundraisers sit up and take note of this trend.

Although most fundraisers will know about DRTV, the growing penetration of internet-enabled TVs is about to give rise to Smart DRTV, which presents a potentially potent combination of the large reach offered by television and the database of the internet. After all, what better way to get immediate response and data than through an advertisement that lets people click directly through to a site where they can request a brochure, see details of a campaign or even make donations?

Sounds simple. But according to qualitative research conducted by my direct marketing agency, making the most of smart DRTV can be complex. The survey was conducted among DRTV responders and non responders (aged 18 to 70) to explore the opportunities the new technology could offer consumers and organisations. With this in mind, we used projective techniques, in the form of partially created adverts, to test viewer responses to certain advertising formats.

For charities, two key insights emerged that will affect the creation and consumption of smart DRTV spots.

First is the observation that consumers have different viewing modes: focused, casual and background. Which modes they are in will affect their likelihood to respond. We’ve known for a while that DRTV is most successful in low-interest programming when viewers don’t mind taking time out to respond to an advert with no fear of missing the must-watch episode of their favourite show. Viewers have a number of devices near them as they watch TV and the programme content will dictate how much attention the TV can attract. Constant partial attention is a regular state for many, and only a few (older) see TV viewing as a singular action.

The second point of note is that there is no absolute set of social norms about which communication device ‘should’ be used in any particular situation: people set their own personal rules based on experience and context. They want to be in control of how they respond.

When it comes to specifics, there is some clearly identifiable behaviour, and clear opportunities:
Campaigning Research participants were shown a campaigning-style advert and asked to "like this". This was favoured because it was easy to show support or interest without any obligation to follow up. It was quick and simple and not a distraction.
Request a catalogue This was favoured because, again, it was low involvement, little interruption and the user stayed in control. A possible barrier with research participants was the need to provide too many details, so a possible handraiser opportunity for charity catalogues for real or virtual gifts may have been a better option.
Donate now This allows spontaneous giving and is good for small donations without immediate commitment. Again, the prospect of giving away too many – in this case, sensitive – details was a barrier: people simply didn’t want to give their financial details on screen if watching TV with others.
Donate now and engage Smart TV will enable charities to continue the engagement story online, so prospects can be taken on a journey to get to know the charity and its work more. For example, donors can get to know their sponsored child or adopted animal, or find out how their money is being spent. The appropriate content could give rise to a valuable, ongoing relationship between donor and charity.
Some emerging rules for optimising response What our research underlined is that, when it comes to fundraising, the rules for engagement are the same as they’ve always been. Now, however, playing by them is more important than ever as more complex technology gives rise to more varied communication channels. For me, the key rules of thumb in optimising response through smart DRTV are:
  • Understand that calls to action need to strike a balance between being noticed and being overly intrusive
  • Response needs to be on the terms of the user, so be sensitive about these terms and devise your activity accordingly
  • And finally, make it easy and intuitive. People watch TV in their downtime and won’t respond well to a complicated ask.

Gail Cookson is strategy partner at direct marketing agency Watson Phillips Norman

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