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Zeebox & How Changing One Word in an Advertising Campaign Can Make Millions

Zeebox’s new ‘click-to-buy’ functionality gives marketers second-by-second knowledge of how effective ads are

It's been a busy few months for zeebox, the new social TV platform co-created by Anthony Rose. The app went live in October 2011, announced a partnership with Channel 4 in November, sold a 10% equity stake to Sky in January and has now launched an interactive click-to-buy service. What is this? How does it work? And how can marketers use zeebox data to gauge the efficacy of their ads? I tested the new functionality yesterday lunchtime and spoke to Rose to get more details.

The first thing to say about click-to-buy is that it's a very simple concept. Load up zeebox on your iPad / iPhone when you're watching a TV show and when there's a commercial break, zeebox will "know" which ads are playing and serve matching click-to-buy links or display ads.

Here's an example from yesterday when 'This Morning' was on. At a commercial break the app immediately started publishing "zeetags" on the right of the screen showing the ads that were playing. You can see (from bottom) links to Nivea, Virgin Media, Cillit Bang and Wiltshire Farm Foods.


Click the zeetag and an overlay displays content directly from the advertisers website. Here's the Virgin Media ad (not a "click-to-buy" but instead a "learn more").


And here's the Wiltshire Farm Foods site - again overlaid within zeebox.


What was particularly impressive was that of the ten ads that appeared during the break six had zeetags assigned to them. In other words, they were matched and clickable within zeebox. And overlays mean that users never have to leave the platform.

So how is it done?

Anthony Rose told me that "We use advanced video fingerprinting to recognise ads as they appear on TV. Importantly, the user doesn't need to hold up their phone to the TV and wait while it listens to what's on - our servers do all the hard work, you just sit back and watch the click-to-buy tags magically appear on screen in sync with things playing on TV."

Who controls the click-through destination?

"For now our systems and operators select the destination based on what the user would really want, what brings most benefit to the user from clicking that link, and potentially also which merchants we have an affiliate relationship with. For example, we send music purchases to iTunes, DVDs to Amazon, food to Tesco, cosmetics to Boots. In due course these will of course turn into opportunities for advertisers to buy, but we got started with us providing an experience that we control."

And how can this technology be used in the future?

"This is the beginning of a journey for us. It's not hard to foresee how this will evolve, including connecting our second-by-second knowledge of the exact ad on TV now, what's been said before and after it, the programme it's on, and the user's profile, to a range of contextual advertising opportunities, some created by us (as we do already with our links to the iTunes store) and some offered for sale."

For me, the particularly fascinating part of this last sentence was the "second-by-second knowledge of the exact ad on TV now, what's been said before and after it" in that zeebox can give advertisers an absolutely minute understanding of how effective their messages are to the audience. This can reap great rewards.

For example, Peter Winslow, chief executive of BGL Group, the company behind compare the, was recently interviewed on the 'Today' programme on Radio 4 and when asked about how the 'Aleksandr the Meerkat' campaign was devised he said:

"Our market research showed that people remembered the words "Compare the" but didn't remember the word "market"… So we either had to change the name [of the company] or find a way of people remembering the word "market". And the agency brief was just that: how to get people to remember the word "market". Hence the birth of the meerkat."

But here's the clincher: by focusing on just one word, "Our market share went from 8% to about 40%".

The potential for marketers to refine their messages using zeebox seems enormous and it's going to be fascinating to see how this plays out. 

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