MEDIA FORUM: What does enhanced TV have to offer advertisers? Several TV programmes are backed by content on various interactive platforms. Alasdair Reid asks what enhanced TV can do for advertisers

Big Brother is back and this time it means business. The

contestants are stupider, trashier, more tabloid-friendly and the

exposes (like the revelations of a contestant's drug habit last week)

have been prepared in easily digestible press-kit format. The in-house

decor is strikingly different - new duvet covers and daringly modern

shelving in the kitchen.



But this apart, it's pretty much the same as last year's show.



But there's one major enhancement that has probably passed you by unless

you're one of the lucky few hooked up to ntl's digital service - Big

Brother is now a fully-fledged "enhanced TV" programming property. Like

most pieces of faddish jargon the term "enhanced TV" can mean different

things to different people, but its hippest usage among media's style

leaders is to describe the support of a programme property with

interactive content across several digital platforms.



Last year, Big Brother had a website. This year, following a three

cornered deal between the programme's producer Endemol, its broadcast

channel, Channel 4, and the interactive games and technology specialist

Two Way TV, Big Brother has one or two more bells and whistles. By

pressing the appropriate button on your ntl remote, you can call down an

interactive panel that will allow you to take part not just in the

weekly eviction votes but in a whole range of other polls too. There

will also be a game called E-Victor on the Two Way TV games channel and

the website is more interactive.



There are those in the business who believe that enhanced TV is going to

be very big. It could have a huge impact on just about every TV format

you can think of - and the ITV Network Centre, for instance, is

currently telling programme producers not to bother pitching new ideas

unless they have an enhanced TV angle. Currently, enhanced TV

technologies are being used to deliver added value for viewers - for

instance on Sky Sports Extra, where you can choose your own camera angle

or call up action replays or statistics.



Enhanced TV will increasingly offer advertisers new opportunities. It

would make sense, after all, for Two Way TV's content to be sponsored by

the same advertiser as the broadcast programme, wouldn't it? Tom

Armstrong, the head of interactive advertising at Two Way TV, agrees

that there are interesting possibilities opening up, but says there are

still some issues to be resolved: "Interactive TV enhancing the live

broadcast will be potent, there's no doubt about that - but you have to

be careful about taking viewers out of the broadcast stream. You can't

induce advertisers to click on a banner in the voting panel because

immediately there's a conflict with the broadcaster. You don't want to

take them away from the show. We see ourselves in a supporting role. Our

message is: 'You've seen the programme, now go and play the game.'"



It's not always going to be a co-ordinated sell, either. Not at this

point, Armstrong says: "Channel 4 owns the airtime, Endemol owns the

website advertising and we own the game. It's difficult to do one sell

because you get into all sorts of questions about revenue split. Also,

to get a whole co-ordinated advertising project up and running at the

moment would be an enormous undertaking - you'd have to talk to a huge

number of people and application-test a number of things and it would

have to be structured carefully because they all run on different time

lines. When you tie up the sponsorship deal, that's when you realise you

should have started the website months ago."



Some media owners are already realising they need to address the issue

of offering integrated packages to advertisers. ITV, for instance, has

made sure that it has acquired both the internet and the interactive TV

rights to Who Wants to be a Millionaire? as it begins developing an

enhanced version of the show. But despite this sort of initiative, some

observers remain sceptical. Nick Theakstone, the deputy managing

director of MediaVest, says that the technology has yet to prove itself.

He says that lead times are also a problem: "Obviously advertisers can

potentially do a lot of interesting stuff and once you've interested

them you can ask them questions and stimulate trial of your product.

You've got to get completely through the line and if you can get people

out of the interactive platform and into your website, then you're

really going places. But then you need all of this activity to be

reflected on-pack. So the lead time for all of this could be something

like six months and you don't always have six months when we're talking

about tying up a broadcast sponsorship. The important point is that for

it to work, the broadcaster has to have all the rights. We'd want to tie

it up with one conversation."



One major advertiser that has recently upped its commitment to testing

this water is GlaxoSmithKline. Its Complete Care brand is not only the

sponsor of Survivor but is also backing that with activity on

interactive platforms. John Blakemore, the UK advertising director,

comments: "Yes, it's of interest to advertisers but really on a trial

basis. At the moment the emphasis is on the back end interactive stuff

and at the moment that's designed primarily for data capture. The big

question for us is whether in the long run this sort of service is

really of interest to consumers.



It needs to add value to their proposition if it's going to add value to

our proposition. We'll be looking to measure response and awareness and

analyse the data we've captured. At this stage we have an entirely open

mind about it. We can't draw any conclusion until the end of the test -

and that's eight weeks away."



But if it does interest viewers, new relationships will have to be

forged to take advantage of the opportunities. That's certainly the view

of Jon Wilkins, a founding partner at Naked: "This is a wonderful way of

extending the relationship between a brand and a viewer and the point is

that it becomes a one-to-one relationship. But the usual rules apply. It

has to be an empathetic part of the programme property and it can't get

in the way of the viewer's enjoyment. If you can get that right you

really are in business from a marketing point of view. But developing

this sort of opportunity will mean the involvement of the broadcasters,

production companies and media agencies, approaching it in a much more

proactive way. Sponsorship, for instance, is often traded in an

opportunistic way and while there is nothing wrong with opportunism it

doesn't help you embed a brand into the development of the property."