There was a time when history was made by daring deeds or colossal
sacrifice, but not any more. This week it was made in the US by a bunch
of disco-dancing droids. Created by the children’s games king, Lego, the
droids in question made their bid for posterity by appearing in the
world’s first interactive commercial.
Many claims have been made over the years to be the first interactive
ad. However, this one appears to be different.
The 30-second commercial, created by Ammirati Puris Lintas New York,
allowed viewers to buy straight from the screen. It was also a genuine
nationwide ad, going on to cable channels and on syndication. And it
will air in the UK, Denmark, France, Portugal and Spain.
The catch was, of course, that only US-based consumers with web-enabled
TV sets and special set-top boxes were able to interact with the
commercial - about 850,000 people at most. But the way it was done
solved a problem that has dogged interactive advertisers for years.
How can viewers interact with a commercial without interrupting normal
programming? If an ad is only 30 seconds long, how can there be enough
time to fill in your name, address and credit card details before the
next commercial begins?
Imagine the furore if interactive advertisers delayed or interrupted
subsequent commercials. Or the uproar from the public if consumers had
to miss their favourite gameshow just to buy a Lego set.
Unilever tried a similar exercise in France to give away free samples
during the launch of its new in-wash tablet, Skip.
Commercials airing on the interactive satellite service, TPS, included
an icon on the screen which told viewers that if they pressed a button
on their remotes, the screen would switch to delivering information and
would allow them to request a sample.
Viewers either had to wait until the end of the break and miss some of
the programmes they were watching, or they could store this screen for
In the UK, Ford ran a similar test, using a version of its famous Steve
McQueen ad for the Puma. This included an icon on which viewers could
click to receive a brochure.
However, the Lego commercial is the first to allow consumers to buy
genuine products, and to do so without delaying other programmes. When
viewers clicked on the on-screen icon, the TV image collapsed into a
smaller screen. This was surrounded by tiles bearing instructions so
that viewers could place an order while normal programming continued and
So, consumers in despair that interactive technology is not delivering
the advantages promised for the new millennium can now rest at peace.
Before the century is out, you can purchase a Droid Developer Kit
without even getting out of your armchair.