Navic Pitches 'Texted' Ads

Interactive-technology vendor Navic Networks is marketing a new service that will allow television viewers to order coupons and other information on advertisers, information that will be sent to their cellphones in the form of a text message.

The Short Message Service (SMS) text could be content such as the address and open-house date of a home a viewer saw on a real estate video-on-demand channel — or a discount coupon from an advertising retailer.

“It's an easier way to get information because televisions aren't connected to a printer,” said Navic vice president of business development and marketing John Hoctor. “It's information to go.”

Navic has many clients in the cable industry. Its applications have been utilized in New York by Time Warner Cable to enable on-screen polling by viewers during telecasts of Bravo's Top Chef. Cox Communications systems in San Diego, Phoenix and Tucson use the vendor's targeted ad solution. Other clients include Canada's Vidéotron, Bright House Networks and Charter Communications.

Hoctor declined to identify operators who may be trialing the new application.

Consumers do not have to register for SMS messaging in advance of using the application; they can opt in the first time they see an on-screen invitation. The application is equipped with a double opt-in layer: Viewers are informed on the first graphical overlay of the information they can choose to receive. The second overlay asks the customer if they are sure they want to participate.

Hoctor said each offer is a one-time selection. Consumers will receive information from that ad only, not ongoing communications from the advertiser. Viewers will be informed that opting in will not trigger spam.

Opt-in advertising itself is not new. Hoctor said operators now allow consumers to click to indicate their interest in contact from an advertiser by phone or mail. The use of the cellphone is the new wrinkle here, and it adds a challenge.

The executive conceded that although young people accept and use text messaging, many other consumers aren't familiar with the cellular feature or may be concerned about the cost of incoming messages.

He noted that Fox's American Idol series uses text messaging for voting purposes, and research shows that a large number of consumers used SMS for the first time to participate in the show. That data indicates that “people are ready to make the move” to the use of texting, he said, adding, “They just need the right reason.”