Let’s say you’re sitting in your recliner at 3AM, half-asleep, while the TV drones on and on, presenting an endless stream of decades-old monster movies peppered with 30-second ad spots every quarter hour. Just as you’re about to drift off into unconciousness an ad appears that catches your eye. It doesn’t really matter what the ad is for (given the mushy, pliable state of your brain) as the announcer’s excitement, along with the ad’s bright colors immediately make you crave whatever product is being shoved into your waning attention span.
If you were fully awake and thinking rationally you’d realize that you have absolutely no use for the Thighmaster pictured above, but given your drowsiness your brain is tricked by the low-level social engineering inherent to these sorts of late night ads into actively wanting one of these stupid things. Fortunately, you’re way too tired to pick up the phone, dial the 1-800 number and offer up your credit card to one of the operators who you have been assured is standing by, waiting for your call. Your wallet and sense of self-worth has just been saved by laziness and sleep-deprivation. Lucky you.
The above is a pretty common scenario, but a new joint effort by PayPal and TiVo may make situations like this a thing of the past. See, the great thing about TiVo’s digital video recorder machines is that they allow consumers to skip right through advertisements — a feature that the vast majority of TiVo users are all too eager to use — but this takes money away from advertisers who provide the cash that keeps our television networks running. In an effort to recoup some of this lost cash, TiVo and PayPal have joined forces to create a system that allows viewers to “instantly purchase products with just a few clicks of the remote after an easy, one-time account setup.” No longer will you have to pick up a phone, or pull out your credit card. Instead, you can shop from home with frightening ease.
According to Deadline, PayPal would handle all the transaction difficulties, advertisers would be in charge of taking and fulfilling orders and TiVo would provide the technology that makes the entire system functional. The DVR company is currently reaching out to advertisers to create special interactive ads that would work with the system, which it hopes will hit the airwaves as soon as Fall 2012.
While it’s easy to see the motivation behind this scheme — as it stands, nobody makes any money off of ads that viewers skip — it feels as if these companies are missing the point. Their customers aren’t skipping ads because it’s too difficult to acquire the products they see, they’re skipping the ads because they only watch television to see their favorite shows. Nobody takes time out of their day to peruse the latest McDonald’s ad spots, and outside of those ads aired during the Super Bowl, it’s rare that anyone actually pays attention to anything that occurs during the commercial breaks of their chosen show. This new technology will certainly make shopping easier, but only a small fraction of people have any desire to purchase things from their television — and networks like QVC and the Home Shopping Network already have that demographic locked up.
Then again, it remains to be seen how much cash can be earned by capitalizing on the sleepy, inebriated masses who find themselves on the couch at 3AM watching infomercials. Maybe that’s a goldmine waiting to be tapped.