Why doesn’t my TV do that?

televisionAfter watching such a magnificent superbowl, where the game was super and the ads were, well, at least the best I’ve seen on television in a while, as a marketer I am struck by a question that seems to occur to me every time I spend extended time in front of the tube. Why isn’t my television more functional? For the past 50 odd years or so, it’s been the most prolific passive entertainment tool known to man. But with the ubiquity of WiFi and mobile connectivity, it’s losing its title as our primary entertainment device. In fact, I am now one of those many people who are logged on and have access to their computers when they are watching TV. So, instead of losing my attention (and ultimately share), why not combine the best of television with the best of internet? I just read a report that, in this down economy, a rapidly growing percentage of people are opting to watch television through their computers and canceling their cable subscriptions. The reasons are fairly plain, on demand trumps TV scheduling, and being online allows you to multi-task.

So, as a current cable subscriber (who is contemplating canceling), when I’m watching a show or a commercial, is it too much to ask my television to give me the option to click on items of interest to find out more? Or to allow me to vote in an online pool during a show? I read USA Today’s Admeter poll that asks visitors to its site to vote on the best commercials during the superbowl. Why do we need a site for this? Can’t we get our tvs to perform the same function, real-time? Wouldn’t we be more apt to vote for our American Idol if we could do it through our television?

In marketing, it’s a general rule of thumb that it is more difficult to obtain conversion when you want them to change media (i.e. DM that requires online response). So wouldn’t it be in advertiser’s best interest to ensure that consumers’ televisions are set up for response?

Do companies always need to make a profit?

I know this seems like an outrageous question, and your gut reaction is more than likely: “Yes!” A friend of mine who works at a publicly traded technology company mentioned this the other day and it got me thinking. His comment was compounded by the fact that FedEx is cutting its Superbowl advertising this year (instead of staying the course and gobbling up more long-term market share) to shore up its balance sheet.

Is it so unlikely to consider that now is the time to forgo short-term gains in lieu of long-term benefits and profits? In theory it sounds ideal. But it will never happen, and here’s who to blame. Me and you.

As casual investors (as most of us are) in these publicly traded entities, we’re not interested in the long-term gains being made out there. We want a return on our investment – now! And if we don’t get it, we bail. And what happens then? The share price falls.

So I guess I’ll have to accept the fact that if I want to see big companies to forgo short-term profit, I’ll have to take a good look in the mirror, and adjust my personal expectations as well.