Allison Dollar of the Interactive Television Alliance introduced a discussion at NAB that ranged from interactive advertising being used to sell anything from dog food to cars, through to sponsorship in which the advertiser message and programming are integrated through interactivity.

Ross Levinsohn of Fox Sports observed that: “In the last four years there has been a seismic shift. Now the programming and the advertising community are both looking at how they can engage the viewer who has attention deficit disorder.”

Paul Bienert of Volvo described the use of interactivity to promote big ticket items such as cars, noting that the performance of an advertisement is “several hundred percent better when there is interactive engagement.” He was critical, however, of the difficulty for advertisers attempting to use this medium.

“I have yet to see a truly turnkey multi-platform opportunity. As an advertiser I should not have to help a media company put together their own plan,” he said.

Olivier Gers of Fremantle, responsible for licensing American Idol, expressed some frustration with traditional advertising sales houses for failing to respond to the opportunity, declaring “There are people in major markets who have been selling advertising for 35 years – they’re on the way out.”

The potential measurability of the medium represents a threat to traditional advertising but also sets high standards. As Ross Levinsohn observed, “If TV were held to the same criteria as internet sites, there wouldn’t be an ad on television.”

William Corbin of A&E Television Networks, producers of the History Channel and the Biography Channel, advised that there was a real future in ‘Click to Buy’ advertising: “In the UK they love it. We’d love to see the operators get more aggressive in enabling it.”

There was general consensus that the opportunity was there but the reality was very different. Ross Levinsohn acknowledged: “I’m a great advocate of iTV – but it’s not here today. It’s still a couple of years away.” However, he added that “The promise of iTV is being proven every day in Europe.”