NBC introduces “ShoppableTV” ads

NBC introduces “ShoppableTV” ads

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During a recent episode of “Songland,” NBC employed a new method of high-tech advertising called "ShoppableTV," a kind of interactive TV where consumers can shop while watching TV.

The ads: During the episode, Grammy Award-winning singer Ryan Tedder, a judge on the show, played an illuminated keyboard called Lumi. As he was using the device, a QR code appeared at the bottom left corner of the screen with instructions "Open Camera, Scan Code, Shop Now."

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Within minutes, thousands of users used the code to go directly to a link where they could purchase the keyboard, sparing consumers the trouble of downloading the app, calling a shopping network, or searching the product online.

"The Holy Grail has always been you seeing a person on TV talking about a product or wearing a product and being able to buy that product right now," said Josh Feldman, head of marketing and advertising at NBCUniversal. "In the past there's been friction. You have to leave your screen and go to the Internet and search for that product."

"Nobody has ever done this before in television," Feldman added. "It's real-time results and we can do this across the entire NBC portfolio."

This new form of advertising is an effort by NBC to "camouflage advertising inside televised content, pairing advertisers and audiences in a way that feels organic and doesn't prompt people to change the channel," writes Peter Holley for The Washington Post.

NBC says this method of advertising was also used during the French Open this summer when a QR code appeared on screens allowing viewers to purchase clothing from Lacoste's Novak Djokovic Collection during games featuring the Serbian tennis ace.

"You can purchase what Novak is wearing on the court," an announcer said during a broadcast of the match. "Show up at your grocery store with that exact same outfit."

NBC has also used a QR code linking to Walmart during its "Today" show, with the network saying the move led to around 50,000 QR codes being scanned in just five minutes.

Though "ShoppableTV" is still in its early stages of development, it has already garnered mixed views, with some arguing that the concept is barely new.

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"As early as 1944, Macy's brought this concept to television, scheduling Tele-Shopping with Martha Manning (later renamed Macy's Teleshopping) on DuMont's WABD New York," wrote University of Pennsylvania PhD candidate Lee McGuigan his 2018 paper, "Selling Jennifer Aniston's Sweater: The Persistence of Shoppability in Framing Television's Future," according to the Post.

"Over the next two years, Gimbels in Philadelphia and Kaufmann's in Pittsburgh commissioned short television productions, for in-store exhibition, to showcase merchandise such as women's apparel," McGuigan adds.

Media analyst Josh Bernoff criticized the idea.

"If you look at the history of television and how people interact with it, there's been huge advances in the level of quality and huge advances in convenience – things like streaming video on demand. But getting people to interact with what's on their television has always been difficult. People are just generally not in the mood for shopping while they're watching TV."

But NBC executives disagree, saying they are "doubling down" on investing in this initiative to fuse TV and commerce.

"Everybody that you know is watching TV with their mobile device in their hand or directly next to them," Feldman said. "When we talk about a product on 'The Today Show' we know people will immediately do searches and buy that product. We hear that from marketers all the time."

Feldman, however, noted that for now, the network will not include ShoppableTV ads in scripted shows. Instead, it will include the ads in live events and unscripted programs.

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