In Mad Men’s fourth season, fictional 60s ad genius Don Draper is celebrated for his spaghetti Western-inspired TV ad for Glo-Coat floor cleaner. The spot is so entertaining that it doesn’t feel like an ad at first – one character even praises that he didn’t realize it was an ad.

In this age of consumer empowerment, TV viewers have lost patience with ads. They fast forward through commercials on their DVRs, or stream shows online commercial-free. I often write about the death of interruption advertising – consumers simply don’t want to endure a forced brand message before they can see what they came for. But the death of interruption doesn’t mean the death of TV advertising. It means ads that viewers choose to engage with – ads that hardly feel like ads.

Opt-in marketing through mobile devices and connected TVs

Product placement isn’t a new concept, but expect it to become a much more central part of television marketing strategy. Viewers don’t want to be interrupted – and no longer have to be – so instead, brands will increasingly make the marketing pitch part of the content consumers want to watch.

But future product placement won’t just be about subconscious impressions. Internet-connected TV and mobile will make placement more active, encouraging viewers to opt in to learn more.

Connected TV penetration should reach 45% this year, and expect that figure to climb. With an internet-connected TV, a viewer could simply tap a button or give a voice command to add a featured product to a queue they’d like to learn more about later – never interrupting the program. After their show ends, they could browse their selected products, watch videos, view reviews and additional color options, and order right from their TV.

Some commercials already use Shazam in this way – including a third of this year’s Super Bowl ads. Shazam is a mobile app that listens to a song and tells the user the title, artist, etc. But some brands now encourage viewers to use the app during TV spots, leading to a mobile site where consumers can learn more about and even order the advertised product. Imagine a similar strategy without the commercial – consumers are subtly encouraged to use their phone to learn more about a product shown in the program.

Synchronized mobile second screen experiences

About 3 in 4 smartphone owners (74%) use their phones while watching TV – and 38% of them use their phone to occupy themselves during commercial breaks. To capture this attention, some networks like Showtime have launched “second screen experiences” that actively encourage the audience to use their mobile devices while watching popular shows like Dexter and Homeland – answering polls related to the plot, chatting with other viewers, and more.

These second screen experiences offer another opportunity for brands to advertise without interrupting the program. Brands could time messages in the app with product placement in the show. As a character uses the sponsoring digital camera brand, an ad for the camera inside the second screen experience would invite viewers to see features and reviews.

Brands could even create their own second screen experience altogether. For example, an apparel retailer like Urban Outfitters or fashion publication like Teen Vogue could offer a second screen experience for a fashion-minded program like Gossip Girl. As characters appear in new wardrobes, the app would identify the clothing they’re wearing and offer available sizes, colors, and online ordering. It could include polls or discussions about the apparel seen on the show – what’s cute, what’s not, etc. – creating a social marketplace around the program.

This post barely scratches the surface of marketing opportunities connected TV and multi-screen television experiences will bring. But the underlying theme across most will be the same: You can’t force-feed TV viewers a message anymore. Weave your marketing seamlessly into content and experiences they want to engage with, and let the interested consumers come to you.

  • Tara DeMarco

    H SunsetBob, nterestng queston, and I admttedly don’t know the answer. I magne the rules are dfferent for alcohol brands, but I can’t say for sure.

    Thanks for readng!

  • SunsetBob

    Can an ndustry such as dstllery’s pay to have a product appealngly placed wthn the plot of a TV seres?

  • Ognyana T.

    Great Artcle. Captures major and mportant trends.
    Thanks for the overvew :-)

  • Tara DeMarco

    A couple of artcles I’ve read recently llustrate some executons of these deas.

    YouTube s expermentng wth “shoppable vdeo” that lets the vewer clck tems seen n the vdeo, lke clothng, and be taken to the product page.

    And NBCUnversal s partnerng wth Amercan Express on a moble companon app that lets vewers shop for products related to shows they’re watchng.

  • Tara DeMarco

    H Mke, thanks for your comment. I agree wth what you say about meda — t smply has to engage. I thnk physcal meda s the same. We can get free pens and koozes, but how engagng s that? It’ll have to be relevant, entertanng, useful n some way that relates strongly to the brand. Not just a “casual mpresson” as I say about product placement above. I’m havng a tough tme thnkng of a good example though…

    Thanks for your comment!

  • Mike Abb

    On your prevous blog ths week I posted a comment that was n lne wth the jst of ths blog. People want engagng meda perod. Ths can be the show or the ad. Make t neat and t WILL attract users. Although we have a screen n our eyes every moment of the day s posonous to socety, n my opnon, t does have ts advantages. Wll physcal meda make a comeback? Bllboards have gone dgtal and newspapers are dryng up. I wonder what the future of physcal marketng materals are? We all get trapped at sponsored events as scantly clad grls hand us cheap chnese swag n hopes we buy somethng later n tme, but does ths even work? Curous as to what your opnons are.