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Pluk exhorts users to pluck content straight from telly screens

There are few things more depressing than seeing a modern human try to function without a cell phone. For marketers, these devices offer some very exciting creative possibilities, and MediaWorks has jumped on the social TV bandwagon and released what it believes is a world-first smartphone app called Pluk that uses audio recognition technology to deliver content from the TV straight to the user’s phone.

Here’s how it works: the viewer sees a Pluk logo on an ad or channel promo, points his or her phone towards the sound source, taps a couple of times to connect to digital content and then gets, for example, exclusive content, a competition entry form, a voucher or more information. Viewers can also share Pluk content through social media and, from next week, TV3 will be ‘pluk-enabling’ many of its new season programmes and viewers who use the app will go into the draw to win a trip to Los Angeles courtesy of Air New Zealand.

The Pluk app and platform was developed locally by Foxtrot Media, a subsidiary of digital agency Tango Communications, and managing director and co-founder Boyd Wason says the uptake has been impressive so far (even with a small glitch at the outset that saw Google auto-correct the name to Pluck in the Android Market, making it impossible to find). After just 10 days, well in excess of 10,000 people have downloaded it.

A “recruitment campaign” was launched across TV3, FOUR and MediaWorks radio stations on January 16, encouraging viewers to download the app to go in the draw to win a Suzuki Swift. Once it has been downloaded, the more ‘pluks’, the more chances you have to win. And, as this campaign runs for another four and a half weeks, Wason hopes to have 50,000 signed up by the end of February.

Any commercial can be pluk-enabled to provide a direct channel to the advertiser’s brand content and offers. And, almost like a fancier version of the QR code, the digital possibilities for interactivity are limited only by the advertiser’s imagination.

Melanie Reece, general manager of integration at MediaWorks, says the feedback from advertisers and consumers has been universally positive so far. Advertisers – and the high-level marketing directors they’re talking to about the technology – are seeing the potential of combining the mass-reach strengths of television with the ability to engage directly with the audiences. And consumers are actually using the app once it’s been downloaded and have asked for more opportunities to get pluk-ing.

“It’s nice to be first,” she says. “It’s a really exciting way to start the year.”

The second screening phenomenon isn’t new, of course. Social TV is on the rise and she says Heineken has done something with smartphones for the FIFA World Cup, Pepsi also embraced it in the US and some of the bigger networks overseas are looking at similar technologies. But she says the world-first aspect of Pluk is that it’s tailor-made for advertisers, and it also dangles a very easy-to-use carrot in front of viewers.

Reece wouldn’t divulge how many advertisers had signed up for the scheme. But it already has ads ready to go and she’s setting some “pretty ambitious targets” for the end of February. As more compelling offers from advertisers launch, she expects the oneupmanship to kick in and uptake to increase.

The younger generation use their phone to run their lives, so she believes this technology will be popular with younger viewers. And although smartphones are still largely limited to affluent, tech-savvy viewers, as prices drop penetration of smartphones will increase and MediaWorks wants to have the technology in place to harness that.

Aside from the apparent benefits to local advertisers, the technology is also very valuable to Wason and co. He set up Foxtrot a few years ago because he saw the opportunity around mobile – but nothing really happened until recently. 

Like search algorithms, he says only a few people around the world have figured out how to link smartphones with TV ads, so it’s too expensive to buy that IP. 

But he and the team set about building the structure from scratch and now he says a number of big global players are looking at it seriously.

“It’s nice to own something and then launch it here. And we do want to be based in New Zealand.”

This story originally appeared on StopPress.