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Digitas Panel Looks at the Next 12 Months of Social TV

It's the end of Social Media Week in New York City, which means an end to the scores of discussions that have been taking place around town on all manner of social networking intersections -- at least until the next Social Media Week in September. On Wednesday, advertising agency Digitas hosted a panel discussion looking at the next 12 months of social TV, with reps from Microsoft, Bravo, and Lost Remote taking part.

Impressed by the possibilities of two-way television, which lets viewers interact in a natural social way with content on the screen, Greg Rivera, senior director for Microsoft's Xbox advertising sales, told how his company had created interactive Kinect experiences with Sesame Street and National Geographic that got kids and adults off the couch. Interactive content needed to go even further, he suggested, looking to a day in the near future when viewer votes could influence the outcome of a TV show.

Commercials would also benefit from two-way interactive elements, Rivera said. TV advertisers are now trying to get their on-screen commercials more interactive, to divert viewer's attention from increasingly popular second screen devices.

Rivera also sounded a cautionary note that technology alone wouldn't bring broadcasters and advertisers the kinds of results they're looking for; they also need strong content. Marketers want to reach people while they're in a certain mindset, not just watching a certain show, he said.

"Technology for technology's sake doesn't do a whole heck of a lot," Rivera added.

"You have to be willing to take risks," urged Lisa Hsia, executive vice president for Bravo Digital Media. "Follow the user." She noted that Bravo had experimented with a variety of social promotions and not all of them worked out (such as one that used crowdsourcing). Echoing Rivera's thoughts on technology for technology's sake, she declared that social TV needs to have more meaning.

Looking ahead, Hsia was optimistic about what mobile devices would bring to social TV.

"The growth of mobile is humongous," Hsia said. The area is seeing triple digit growth, although mobile advertising wasn't keeping up. That had better change, she said, "or else we're going to be in deep doo doo."

Much of social television happens when the TV is off, noted Natan Edelsburg, staff writer for Lost Remote. "The real social TV is happening in the huge amounts of fake accounts," he said, such as Modern Seinfeld on Twitter. Fans are creating viewer art and posting it on Tumblr and Reddit, he said, adding that they're not creating those works during the time that the show is on.

As the hour-long discussion ended, some in the audience stuck around for wine and cheese, but most dashed off for the next Social Media Week event.

Digitas Panel

Natan Edelsburg, Greg Rivera, and Lisa Hsia, with moderator Jordan Bitterman of Digitas.

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