News

Ad-Sales Units Ask: What's In a Name?

6/01/2003 8:00 PM Eastern

Cable operators still have a lot to do to market themselves better to the advertising community, executives from Cox Communications Inc. and Comcast Advertising Sales admitted at a recent conference here.

In that vein, Cox's recent rebranding of its CableRep advertising unit was "in no way due to being ashamed of cable," Cox Media vice president of marketing and new-media advertising Debby Mullin said at the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau Sales Management Conference.

Reputable moniker

Rather, it was inspired by the desire to position that operation for such new-technology advances as addressable, interactive and video-on-demand advertising, she said.

And vice president of ad sales Billy Farina and others wanted to capitalize on Cox's good reputation, she noted. The CableRep name had no connection to the MSO.

Comcast — which only months ago adopted the Comcast Ad Sales moniker — wants to present a more unified brand name than has been the case thus far, according to vice president of marketing and communications Vicki Lins.

She noted that the MSO has too many identities in the ad arena, citing AT&T Broadband, AT&T Media Services and the Cable Advertising of Metro Atlanta interconnect — all recently absorbed into the company — as well as the MSO's own Comcast MarketLink interconnect brand.

Both Cox and Comcast invested heavily to research the rebranding process, including interviews and focus-group research with ad agencies.

The MSOs and their sales units have "a lot of baggage" in the form of "unfulfilled promises" about local cable ratings and an improved backroom, Lins conceded.

In its chats with media buyers across the U.S., Comcast also learned that some still do not believe in cable's one-stop shopping capability via interconnects — a major Comcast initiative.

"They see cable for what it used to be," said Lins.

In marketing themselves to ad agencies and their clients, cable operators need to virtually start from scratch, said Lins.

"We need to start with who we are and what we do," she said. Cable also needs to emphasize the promises it has kept, she added.

Too many media buyers said in interviews that they weren't familiar with Comcast's acquisition of AT&T Broadband.

"We're not breaking the wall," Lins observed. As an industry, "We're hammering but the nail is not going in. We need a bigger hammer."

Ratings appraisal

Far too many buyers still think, "We buy broadcast to reach everybody and only buy cable to reach the important ones," she added. "We're still not changing that mentality."

To better compete against broadcast, the industry must now promote itself as a reach medium, she said.

Agencies also have yet to catch up with cable's overall ratings upsurge. That point was underlined by Starcom senior vice president Kevin Gallagher during an agency session when he said "the big ratings aren't there" relative to individual cable programmers.

Kelly, Scott & Madison executive vice president Jonathan Lichter said that agency planning is thrown awry by the lack of local cable ratings for most markets.

"If the numbers are fuzzy, that's a real drawback," he said.

Initiative Media executive vice president Kathy Crawford also complained that planning was complicated when, for example, a top-10 interconnect didn't break out satellite-subscriber numbers or systems that don't belong to that entity.

Referring to Lichter's criticism of cable as "a lot of work to buy," Adlink vice president and general sales manager Rick Oster later countered, "He's talking about cable of 10 years ago."

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