"Don’t leave home without it" is becoming "Don’t leave home at all." Or, at least, "just yet." American Express is kicking the tires on interactive television and branded content with its own video-on-demand channel, participating in a year-long test with interactive TV provider BrightLine and the Mindshare agency to launch what's being called the largest advanced TV campaign to date.
The AMEX Channel, which quietly launched in September, is available in more than 50 million households through five pay TV service providers — AT&T's U-verse service, Cablevision, DirecTV, Dish and Verizon FiOs —and through smart TV platforms, namely Internet-connected TV sets sold by LG and Samsung.
The advanced television ad test is being trialed on TV as the primary screen, with apps for tablets and smartphones as second screens. Viewers can access the channel via interactive banners, channel guide listings and overlays that appear next to American Express commercials, using BrightLine-based technology. The video-on-demand channel offers video clips, games and information and promotions like AmEx's annual Small Business Saturday shopping day after Black Friday.
American Express execs told the New York Times that the company's investment to fund the ITV channel is “significant” and BrightLine calls it “the largest interactive TV campaign ever," at least in the U.S.
The "Always On" brand hub will serve, ideally, as an "all things Amex" vehicle to drive brand messaging to cardholders and potential cardholders in the growing “t-commerce” market, as in e-commerce through television. Marketers including GlaxoSmithKline, Kellogg, L’Oreal, PepsiCo, and Unilever are moving into the space where their ads can be targeted more precisely and their effectiveness measured more accurately.
"The idea is that we can create new ways of engaging with our customers," said Lou Paskalis, Amex VP for global media, content development and mobile marketing, adding that it's "part of a much larger strategy in the advanced TV space.”
BrightLine chairwoman and CEO Jacqueline Corbelli told the Times that the channel's “reach and duration goes above and beyond” any branded ITV channel effort to date. Rob Aksman, chief experience designer at BrightLine, compared it to “what American Express cards provide” to those who use them: “access.” The only cost of entry is being a subscriber to the service provider, with non-AMEX customers welcome to tune in.
Pasakis told Ad Age that his interest is less in achieving national scale (at this point) and more in learning about consumer reactions and habits. “I’m going to have to think episodically in my messaging. I’m going to have to create more evergreen content.”
American Express will add updates to evergreen content around promotional activities such as its sponsorships of the U.S. Open and Tribeca Film Festival as well as its “Unstaged” concert series, offering a streaming feed of its cross-platform sponsored concert by The Killers in New York on Sept. 18. “We have to take an editorial disposition and earn our keep every day,” said Pasakis.
American Express also has a partnership with Comcast's NBCUniversal and the second-screen social TV app Zeebox to let consumers use mobile devices to buy products “inspired by” NBCUniversal shows as they watch. Participating Comcast-owned cable programming includes Bravo’s “Life After Top Chef,” E!’s “Fashion Police,” and Style’s “Tia & Tamera,” while Comcast's Daily Candy website is curating the products.
The blue chip brand is also working on other interactive advertising efforts. It's partnering with the FOX broadcast network to promote shopping via the Fox Now app while watching “New Girl” which weekly will feature at least one item available for purchase. American Express Cardmembers can receive a one-time $35 statement credit if they use an eligible Card synced with their Facebook or Twitter account for both NBCU and Fox offerings.
“The integration of commerce enablement into the television and mobile experience creates multiple contextually relevant opportunities to provide exclusive or enhanced benefits to American Express Cardmembers in the comfort of their own living rooms and in the most convenient way for them,” said Pasakis.
Even though Comcast is a partner, the channel is not yet available on Comcast's cable systems, which comprise America's largest cable footprint. The American Express channel could appear in the future on larger cable players such as Comcast’s Xfinity service, but for now, the new technology is still “the world’s biggest roulette table,” said Pasakis.
Brightline has powered ITV channels for a multitude of brands to date, including Skinnygirl, the brand that former Bravo "Real Housewife" Bethenny Frankel sold to Beam Global; Unilever's AXE; and the SoBe line of beverages.