You've waited all day to come home and relax. You're sitting on the couch watching your favorite football team with your feet propped up on the coffee table (just like mom told you not to do). Life is good.
Then a little i pops up on your screen. What's that? It's interactive television and it's a whole new ball game for advertisers.
You've seen commercials for Clorox and Purina Puppy Chow. But now you can see those commercials and get coupons at the same time. The interactive screen provides you with options to accept or decline an advertiser's special offer.
And it doesn't stop there.
ITV has several incentives over a PC. You can play along with game shows, vote in live polls, learn trivia tidbits, get game stats and purchase items just by pushing a button on your remote control.
Some skeptics aren't buying the smart TV concept, though. They say an advertiser's going to follow their audience and interactive television isn't one of their destinations.
Recent numbers disprove the claims that there's not a market for ITV. For example, during a Melissa Etheridge concert, 46 percent of viewers clicked through to learn more about a CDnow.com discount.
Critics also say there's a digital divide - a gap between levels of income and their spending dollars. In the past, high-income families were the only ones to have access to the latest technology.
But tech costs are down and that digital divide is dissolving. In fact, the number of Internet users with an annual household income under $25,000 has grown almost 25 percent in the past year alone.
Studies show low-income families usually have more of a disposable income. They have more purchasing power because they don't have major bills like a mortgage or an expensive car payment.
Research from the Institute of Information Policy at Pennsylvania State University consistently finds that the poor use five times more telephony and cable services than suburban families. Also, female head of households dominate as low-income subscribers to cable TV.
Many believe the growth of cable TV is so parents can keep their kids at home with them. Supporting this theory would mean as more ITV programs are added, the switch to interactive television will increase.
WebTV is doing their best to speed up that switch. They recently introduced their new Click-To-Video ads. When a WebTV subscriber clicks on a banner ad, they view a full-screen, full-motion commercial for the advertiser's product and are then taken to that company's Web site.
Advertisers can submit their current banner ads and TV commercials and WebTV Networks converts their materials to the advertising product. Some of the current Click-To-Video advertisers are Ford, Maytag, Hewlett-Packard and Volvo Cars of North America.
These new services are designed to attract both low- and high-income families. While the future of this new advertising medium remains to be seen, the digital divide seems to be taking a hit.
The critics have their doubts. The true believers that this is a revolutionary product for advertisers and consumers are die-hard. As you form your own opinion, keep in mind, Xerox sold the rights to Windows because company execs didn't see a use for them in the consumer world.
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