Channel 4 break the mould with world’s first live advert

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Channel 4 break the mould with world’s first live advert

Posted on: May 28th, 2014 by tommyj

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With the announcement today that Channel 4 will be live broadcasting an advert, a live performance of a song no less (Sam Smith – ‘Stay With Me’), I find myself wondering why television companies haven’t made a point of making television advertising more interactive already, or utilised existing methods to make that sale more likely.

In this particular instance you have to wonder whether it even counts as an advert; Channel 4 with Google Play are essentially filming and streaming a live music section in the middle of a TV show hosted by Alan Carr – in reality is that really different from a music tv show announcing "We now go over live to T In The Park for a song from Emile Sande"? Remote broadcasting is nothing new, and live broadcasting of music is certainly nothing new either so really the only thing that’s made this news worthy is the claim that it’s the first live music ad break performance – if the entire ad break is just one song then surely that’s not an ad break anyway? If that’s what constitutes and ad break then how on earth doesn’t the Superbowl live show, for example count as an ad break? In the same sense it’s taking people away from the main televised event, and has a positive effect on artist’s sales, so surely that’s as much an advert as this is.

Looking away from that though, you’ve got to wonder what exactly the live broadcast of a single song is advertising. It’s sponsored by Google Play, so I’d presume they play a part, but surely it’s also an advert for the song too. The song hardly needs the additional advertising – it’s already gone to number one – but until Google Play moves into live streaming from concerts (a move I’d certainly welcome!), this isn’t advertising what they can do, it’s essentially just sponsoring a live broadcast to get it’s logo on the screen a couple of times.

Was Lego just the start?

I do certainly think there’s scope to do interesting things within the television ad break though. When ITV decided to change their entire ad break to be re-enacted by Lego characters in February this year, people actually seemed excited by the event; excited by advertisements, it boggles the mind! This was an interesting one in that it advertised two objects in parallel – the main one, obviously, being the release of The Lego Movie, while the second being the usual companies advertised on ITV. I think it was incredibly successful on both levels – it was clear to everyone watching that the Lego Movie was due for release (if the "subtle" changes to the usual adverts wasn’t enough they did also put mini-ads for the film between each one), but I feel it also promoted a positive image for companies because of the changes to adverts I usually find cringe inducing – the cast of the BT advert, for example, felt a lot more real represented as yellow bricks.

But perhaps, given the advances in television since the days of having to order your children to go and turn the dial next to the screen, it’s time to move towards more interactive ads. It surprises me this isn’t a big thing over in this country yet. Looking into it I can find a couple of examples in the States; Burger King’s Twilight tie in with an advertising quiz was a good example, although fairly basic (it brings back memories of teletext’s Bamboozle Quiz, which I remember being the most awesome thing as a child). I think there’s a lot that can be done with the format though. I’m reminded of The Streets Youtube make-your-own-adventure for the release of Computers And Blues which worked well as an advert, getting me involved in something that I only had a light passing interest in. I think it would be interesting to see this format moved to the television. Would a make your own adventure advert featuring the BT advert characters make me more likely to buy BT broadband? Hard to say. What it would do however is get the name across, making the advert more than a passing blot in a mind that doesn’t care. By getting the potential customer more involved it will extend the amount of time they spend actively taking in information, and that surely can only be a good thing. It surprises me that with digital televisions common place this isn’t something you see all the time.

I don’t feel that Channel 4’s "world first" this Friday really serves the purpose of getting people involved. It’s not even a technological advancement – we’ve had live television events since long before I was born – and it doesn’t utilize any new features that are becoming more common place. That’s why I believe it’ll be a failure and forgotten about within a day. I do think it does raise questions about what can be done with a device most people have that’s getting more advanced by the year though, and perhaps Channel 4’s questionable claim will make some advertisers think outside of the box in the near future.

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