The 2011 Consumer Electronics Show has come and gone, leaving behind an array of consumer gadgets hopeful of becoming the next big thing. Among them are smart TVs, also known as connected televisions. Though most are focusing on how the move back to television will improve electronics sales, we believe it is far more important to discuss how this traditional platform will improve the digital marketing arena. The shift to smart TVs will give the digital ad world countless new areas of engagement to explore, increased interaction on larger screens and new functionality in much the same way, if not more, than other smart technologies.

With sales of connected TVs increasing by 38% in 2010 and the home theater market growing at a surprising rate (pre-Super Bowl excitement a contributing factor), the consumer demand is giving agencies good reason to explore new engagement opportunities. The importance consumers are placing on traditional home entertainment (combined with the amount of time spent in front of a television and viewing from multiple screens, such as smartphones or laptops) is creating the perfect scenario for digital advertisers to become a consistent, integral part of the experience.

Projecting that 40% of U.S. televisions will have internet connections by 2014, a recent Futurescape study also notes that 63% of viewers want more out of their television experience, including show information and shopping capabilities. Aside from basic internet connections provided by various devices like Apple TV, Google TV and Boxee, steps to increase television interactivity are on the rise as television networks are utilizing check-ins, a feature made popular by numerous smartphone applications like Foursquare, to help increase viewership, promote specials and improve pre- and post-show engagement levels.

In addition, the “couch potato” days of viewing are being replaced with increased mobility. The growth of smartphones and tablets have allowed for unique opportunities to create engaging experiences that move with the viewer, making the smaller, portable screens a digital “training ground” for the larger smart television market. Just as it was for smartphones and tablets, the key to this technology taking off is its value to the user. With it, consumers will find that television can adapt to their lifestyle as more apps and customization tools are created to check the weather, update their Facebook profile, see sports highlights, shop and more – all related to what they’re watching.

This new era of television is not just something to be aware of, but something to get excited about. As we mentioned in a previous blog, television is becoming more than just television. It is an opportunity for digital advertisers to create connections with consumers and now, with new features and capabilities, becoming a powerful ad forum once again (if used correctly). When taken advantage of, this channel can only help extend reach as well as seamlessly provide integrated and interactive opportunities to enhance viewer (and brand) engagement.