Because of teaching class on Monday nights, I have taken to watching the CBS situation comedy “Two and a Half Men” as a streaming video from the network website.  This is a beautiful model.  The network delivers the program to me free of charge, and advertisers get to deliver messages to an audience that can’t fast-forward through or skip the spots.  Seems like a fair exchange all around.  Plus, in theory, CBS could gather a tiny bit of data from me in exchange for access to streaming video (which it doesn’t currently), and marketers could more precisely target messages to my demographics.

There have been a number of new ploys used lately to get the viewer to “engage” with the ads delivered during the streaming video.  One asks you to choose your next ad – this is likely done by the network ad sales folks to show that people are paying attention.  Some past ads have invited viewers to watch the next ad in the “series” by choice, effectively diverting the viewer from the show to pure product promotion.

A new ad series this holiday stands out.  Johnnie Walker has a neat little campaign that includes a number of vignettes that play out on an interactive page.  One activity allows viewers to type gifts into a translator to learn “what the gift says,” and get the answer as a response from one of the ad’s characters.  It’s really well done, but I can’t find it in use anywhere with a direct link.  So if you are into this kind of thing, it’s worth watching a little of the show to see the spots, even if you don’t like it.

Now, I’m not any more likely to buy Johnnie Walker than before seeing this campaign.  However, I rarely “engage” with these spots, and this one brought me in.  Imagine if the ad was targeted more tightly than just the demographics the network believes the show draws in broadcast channels.

In any event, wishing you the happiest of holiday seasons and New Year.

Dr. Michael C. Porter, APR is the director of the UST MBC program.