Kiss Principle, Microsoft Plan ITV Message Service

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A new service will make it possible for marketers to guide and enhance ads while people chat and send instant text messages through their televisions. The service will debut on Microsoft's Interactive TV in the third quarter of next year.

The service, called Chat on Television, was developed jointly by Kiss Principle and Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA, and can be coupled with any ITV set-top box or made available to consumers through agreements being negotiated with cable operators.

The service uses a social interface -- similar to the talking paper clip character that accompanies Microsoft's Word application. Chat on TV uses two characters, Zack and Valerie, who will guide viewers throughout their television-viewing experience, thereby creating continuity from programming to advertising.

As a benefit to advertisers, the two characters are not constantly on screen and can be turned off if viewers want to enter a private chat or channel surf without the intrusion.

"We allow users to move from a least intrusive chat mode to a totally intrusive environment," said Steven Ericsson-Zenith, CEO of The Kiss Principle, Mountain View, CA. "They can be primarily engaged with the television content, or they can be primarily engaged by the chat content and move easily between the two. It is all done with one click, and it is totally under the viewers' control."

The company also has developed a remote control that allows people to preformat responses when they chat and keep the remote control near them to respond to the advertising features. This will allow marketers to use the interaction between the user and the two characters in several ways, including in writing the scripted dialogue that complements their ads or programs.

This arena promises to be competitive in the future as the Internet instant messaging wars heat up. Thirty separate companies are readying to rally against America Online and its more than 90 million IM users -- and America Online also plans to bring instant messaging to ITV.

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