Clicking on Jennifer Aniston’s Sweater Just Got Real

NBCUniversal has launched a unified shopping cart for ads across television and digital properties. It is the latest iteration of a long-failed idea: interactive television.

The idea of interactive TV goes back to the beginning of TV. It’s such an old idea that I have two patents in the space.

First, we wondered why tune-in promotion wasn’t “clickable.” After all, it would have been easy to send you a reminder to watch your favorite show via email or set your DVR (or VCR back in the day). Then, the goal was to “click on Jennifer Aniston’s sweater” and be able to purchase it. This never worked.

The problem was sociology, not technology. We learned new terms of art: “lean back” and “lean forward.” According to the experts, TV was a lean back experience, and your brain was in a passive mode being entertained. Therefore, you could not be incentivized to click a button on your remote to purchase anything; you were too busy with your adult frosty beverage and a salty snack. Computers offered a lean forward experience; there, you would click all day long. Except… when people watched shows and long-form video content on their computer, no one clicked. Hummm…

OK, forget that I am a patented inventor in the space (the earliest one, BTW). US Patent Number 5,905,865 is the granddaddy of all the “click on Jennifer Aniston’s sweater” patents. Forget that no one has ever clicked before. Forget all that lean forward, lean back stuff. I think this is going to work!

Of course, I thought it was going to work back in the early 90s. But, as Clayton P. Knowles, Jr. famously said, “The difference between a rich inventor and a poor inventor is that poor inventors are two years ahead of their time… rich inventors are six months ahead of their time.”

My track record on this subject is tainted by eternal optimism, but I think it’s going to work this time. I really do. Good luck, NBCU! I’m counting on you to get this ball over the goal line!!!

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit


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