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January 23, 2010
The Family Room 2.0

As the number of mediums that we as marketers and advertisers employ to target consumers have grown, the physical location of the consumer we are targeting can no longer be singularly defined. With mobile we hit them on the bus or at the dentist and via the Internet we hit them at the coffee shop or while at work in the office. Given this, it is hard to imagine the days of radio and television dominance, when our greatest aim was to reach consumers at home in the family room.

What if I told you that I believe we are on the verge of seeing the return to relevance of The Family Room? Would you laugh at me? Would you chase me from the halls of your agency, throwing vegetables at me? You could, but I think that you’d be wrong to dismiss this as simply crazy talk on my part.

Even though Nielsen still lists TV as the King of Mediums, we are finding that other mediums provide far more fertile grounds for yielding quality results. Yet what will happen when the Internet jumps from your small computer screen to that large plasma in your family room? Internet TV is around the corner according to announcements coming from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Picture any, generic family room. What is the centerpiece of it? Unless you are Amish, it’s the TV. Soon families will be surfing the World Wide Web via the same platform that used to bring them Hee Haw. So while broadcast and cable stations cringe at the thought that this will further denigrate their ability to garner ad revenue, let me tell you why this is actually a great thing.

Let’s use Hulu as an example: Citing a great book called Socialnomics, advertisers saw a 22% increase in ad recall and a 28% increase in intent to purchase as a result of advertisements placed on Hulu. What will happen to those statistics when that same content appears on the TV screen…do you think that they will drop or increase? My money is on the latter. Think of the possibilities for the traditional, 30-second spot for advertisers, as we will be able to add the layers of interactivity that has so far been confined to the computer screen. Ads on Internet TV will also provide marketers and advertisers with more robust analytical data and tracking.

It is not just Internet TV that will draw consumers back to the family room. Look at the possibilities presented by the growing acceptance of console gaming beyond the hardcore audience. One only has to look at the Wii to see how a console can be fun for the whole family. However, it isn’t the Wii that has me excited; it’s Xbox360’s Project Natal. If you aren’t familiar with Project Natal, I recommend that you devote 20 minutes to checking out the launch video. Essentially, this add-on to the Xbox360 console will bring augmented reality to the TV set. The AR craze that has digital marketers frothing at the mouth is about to jump from the Mac to the big screen. I am not assuming that every family will get an Xbox, but this jump may just be indicative of other advancements to come. Again, announcements coming from CES tell us that Skype will soon be available through certain TV’s. It isn’t a stretch of the imagination to think of Skype as the first step towards bringing AR to television. For a digital marketer, that is a pretty cool thought.

I admit that I am a geek when it comes to this kind of stuff, and that maybe I am getting ahead of myself. Regardless of how prone I am to excitement, the way that consumers ingest media via the television will evolve dramatically over the next 5 years. And while the family room will never be what it was to my parents growing up, maybe it will again be the central place where families gather around to spend some quality time with the ole’ boob tube… and the best place for us to convince them to buy stuff that they don’t really need.

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Justin Celko is a digital communications professional based in Chicago, IL. Follow him on Twitter.

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