Television viewers have long used their remote controls to skip through commercials, but now the crafty minds at Comcast Corp. have figured out a way to turn the tables -- by turning the remote control into a tool for delivering advertisements.
Two months after introducing the consumer launch of its new voice-controlled Xfinity remote control, the Philadelphia cable and media giant announced Wednesday that the trusty clicker will talk back to consumers in “Minionese” as a promotional tie-in with the forthcoming animated feature “Minions.” The film, which hits theaters July 10, is being distributed by Universal Pictures, part of Comcast’s NBCUniversal division. It’s the third movie in the popular “Despicable Me” franchise produced by Universal-owned Illumination Entertainment.
Jeanine Heck, Comcast Cable’s senior director of product management, described the “Minions” promotion Wednesday in a blog post:
“Just say the word ‘banana’ into the remote and you’ll get a list of food programs as the minions talk back. Saying ‘kudos’ will take you to the Despicable Me 2 movie, and the minions will say ‘kudos!’ right back. Test out other words in Minionese to see what comes up, and keep checking the Xfinity and Minions social channels for new commands as they’re added. And if you want to get ready for the movie that comes out on July 10, just say ‘Minions’ to see the trailer.”
As live-TV viewing declines and DVR use skyrockets, advertisers are seeking evermore creative ways to get their messages into consumers’ living rooms. Using the remote control as a promotional tool carries with it a certain irony. The device has been a thorn in the side of advertisers since the early days of cable, when the concept of channel-surfing became commonplace and the remote was seen as an enabler for viewers’ ever-shortening attention spans.
Comcast introduced its voice-controlled remote in May, giving consumers the option to search, set recordings and get recommendations using natural speech. For instance, consumers can speak the words “watch ESPN” to change the channel or “show me kids’ movies” to browse on-demand offerings. A few months earlier, in November 2014, Comcast launched a voice-enabled television user interface meant to improve accessibility for customers with visual or physical disabilities. The interface, part of the X1 next-gen platform Comcast released last year, includes a “talking guide” feature that reads channel names, show titles and DVR commands aloud.
Heck said Wednesday that users have talked into their remote controls 8 million times since the device was rolled out. For June, the most popular show-specific command was for the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”
Read more about the new “Minions” promotion here.