Remember when the passive act of watching TV was going to become interactive? See an ad for a product you like, press a button on your remote, and you could get a coupon or have the product delivered to your door!

“The online and offline world have merged, and commerce now happens anytime and everywhere. We believe the TV is the next natural outlet,” a PayPal executive said – in 2012.

“Companies such as Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Kraft Foods are increasingly turning to technologies that add interactive capabilities – games, coupons and informational videos – to their TV pitches,” the Wall Street Journal reported – in 2009.

Well, here we are in 2020. So why aren’t TV commercials filled with coupons, deals and interactivity yet?

One of the companies mentioned in the Wall Street Journal’s report is trying again, eleven years later, with a new type of interactive ad that taps into the latest trend in interactivity – voice commands.


Unilever is working with Peacock, the NBCUniversal streaming service, to air commercials that will let you get a coupon just by speaking to your remote and asking for it. Peacock’s “On Command Ads” use the voice activation function built into Comcast’s remote controls. An interactive commercial “prompts the viewer to speak a specific voice command to unlock a special offer from the advertiser,” Peacock explains. “When the viewer speaks the command, an overlay appears where they can enter their mobile number to receive a Peacock offer via text message.”

Unilever has partnered with Target to air one of the very first On Command Ads. A commercial for Suave products features a prompt inviting you to say “Save With Suave” into your remote. If you do, you’ll receive a text with a coupon offering a $5 Target gift card when you buy $5 or more worth of Suave products at Target.

“The idea that someone could have the option of receiving a coupon or learning more about a product in the midst of watching a show was a really interesting and appealing idea to us,” Rob Master, vice president of media and digital engagement for Unilever, told Variety.

The ads represent the latest effort in more than a decade of attempts to turn TV ad-watching into an interactive rather than a passive experience. Prior to Peacock’s initiative, the most recent effort was “Valassis Audible Offers.” The ad-tech company ACTV8me used the platform to place interactive ads on the cable TV networks Univision and AMC, using inaudible audio signals embedded in the commercials to beam mobile coupons to viewers who had downloaded the company‘s app.

Still, interactive ads remain something of a novelty. They’re far from being commonplace or widespread, but Peacock hopes to change that. “This experience will allow for far more opportunities long-term,” a Peacock spokesperson told Coupons in the News. Other brands have already signed on to the interactive ad platform, and other NBCUniversal-owned networks could begin airing On Command Ads as well.

So the next time you’re watching TV and sitting through some commercials, pay close attention. If you see a prompt, just say the word – and it just might pay off in the form of savings.

Image source: Peacock

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