The new twists in advertising get old fast.

CED's Brian SantoThe ultimate product in the TV business is not content. It is the presumed attention of the viewers of that content, sold in aggregate to advertisers. Advertising has been the cornerstone of the TV business since back when the only screens available were the dials on radios.

Recently, equipment vendors have been working hard to give communications service providers the ability to place more ads in more places – in on-demand programming of all sorts and on all manner of devices. (Let’s not bring up EchoStar and its Hopper; it ruins this part of my argument. But I digress. …)

There’s a question about how much advertising is too much. Walls, floors, vehicles, clothing, inside urinals – there are few surfaces left unexploited by static ads. As for video ads, there are few places left where a screen couldn’t be mounted and hasn’t been (inside urinals, maybe?).

With ads saturating almost every human experience, they tend to fade into metaphorical white noise.

Targeting has the potential to increase the response to ads, and therefore their value, but there is evidence accumulating that either targeting isn’t as effective as hoped, or that the science of targeting requires a lot more refinement.

Recent experiences indicate that the addition of some sort of interactivity can amplify the effectiveness of advertising, but the recent history of advertising is that the effectiveness of each new twist diminishes in direct relationship to its novelty.

It’s hard to imagine that there are that many novel ways to deliver ads left undiscovered. That suggests the industry ought to keep thinking about novel means of interactivity it can deliver.

At some point, just about every object depicted in video has to be an interactive element. When a viewer gets interested in what an actor wears or eats, or where the actor goes, the viewer should be able to point at the item and get information on it – basic info, maybe reviews from other customers. And service providers should be able to sell that touch to advertisers at any time so that when a viewer points, they can find out where to get it and how much it costs. With some items, offering a coupon will be appropriate.

After that? We’ll have to figure out how to deliver ads directly to the chips we’ll all install in our heads. …