If you thought ad breaks were for making cups of tea, think again. TV is about to meet the Internet, with the UK's first interactive advertisement going live Monday.
Chicken Tonight -- the cooking sauce famed for its catchy "I feel like chicken tonight" theme tune -- will become the first product to offer viewers a link through to interactive TV. Viewers of BSkyB will be given the option to click on the ad and visit Sky's interactive TV service Open. From there they can order a money-off voucher and a recipe book, as well as browse recipes.
Interactive TV is set to transform the nature of advertising, enabling consumers to click and buy immediately. The ITC is currently drawing up rules for such services. "We are keen to get a level of protection to viewers and ensure separation between advertisements and programmes," an ITC spokeswoman said.
As TV and Internet collide, broadcasters will have to decide how far they want viewers to wander onto the World Wide Web. The ITC believes most broadcasters will edit Internet content to keep viewers within their broadcasting environment.
There are no rules regulating Internet content. "It is becoming increasingly blurred as interactive services offer a bridge between broadcasting and the Internet," the ITC spokeswoman said. "We can regulate the interactive service, but once they move onto the World Wide Web, they move out of regulation."
The ITC is consulting broadcasters about how to approach the new TV environment. The TV watchdog favours light-touch regulation, with a simple notification to viewers that they are moving out of broadcasting and onto the Web.
Chief executive of Open James Ackerman believes the advent of interactive adverts heralds a revolution in TV. "Instead of just watching adverts, viewers across the country can now find out more about advertisers' products and even buy them straight away. It is a turning point in TV and advertising history," he claimed.
A recent survey from research firm BMRB predicts that online TV shopping could outstrip online PC shopping by the end of the year.
See also: the e-commerce special.