Advanced Advertising 2.0: Marketers Push TV's Engagement Buttons

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New York -- While advanced-advertising business models and formats are still evolving, dozens of advertisers are taking advantage of interactive TV platforms today to build higher engagement with consumers.

Executives from DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, Bravo and Unilever relayed their experiences on the panel "Two-Way Marketing Engine: Success Stories," here Monday at the Advanced Advertising 2.0 event produced by Multichannel News and B&C.

DirecTV, for one, has seen positive results from recently executed interactive campaigns for advertisers including Hellmann's Mayonnaise and Resort & Residence TV, said Rich Forester, vice president of advertising sales.

"Once people get to the application and start to interact with it we see really, really good things about awareness and intent to purchase," he said.

With Hellmann's, DirecTV found that 63% of the satellite operator's customers who interacted with the ad said they would look for the mayo in the grocery store -- and 13% actually bought Hellman's after using the dynamic ad unit, according to Forester.

Robert Aksman, executive vice president of experience design for marketing-consulting firm Brightline iTV, noted that consumers voluntarily spent 70 million minutes last year watching and interacting with branded content and that 75% of homes have advanced-advertising capabilities.

"Over 40 major marketers are using ITV as part of their ad mix," Aksman said.

Asked by B&C business editor and panel moderator Jon Lafayette whether most advertisers were missing the boat, Forester responded, "I don't know that people are necessarily missing it. They're just slow to come to it."

As for whether advanced TV should be sold using Internet-style pricing structure -- based on cost per thousand impressions -- panelists said the business model is still evolving.

"What button you press on the calculator for ‘engagement' is not clear," said Warren Lapa, Time Warner Cable vice president of digital sales and business development. However, "at the end of the day we have a common goal... and we'll find a way to make this profitable."

Aimee Viles, Bravo vice president of emerging media, said the industry should let the market continue to experiment. "A lot of times it seems like we're trying to dictate the business model before we can grow," she said.

Bravo's interactive advertising efforts have included a campaign with Quaker integrated into episodes of Top Chef. What's next is for TV operators to scale up the capability to more viewers. "We may be happy with a few million but for our sponsors it may be, ‘Until you get to 20 million it's not as interesting,'" she said.

To that point, TWC's Lapa sees great potential for cable's Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF), which Time Warner Cable and other operators are deploying to millions of set-top boxes this year.

"We have a common technology platform in EBIF that developers can write to and develop applications for," Lapa said. "That will be an enormous catalyst for the industry."

For its part, Verizon has a developers program around its own interactive "widget" platform for FiOS TV. To date, the telco has launched more than two dozen applications, including HSN's Shop by Remote and a sponsored widget for Victory Motorcycles that provides product information and videos, said Jared Iwata, Verizon director of advertising sales strategy.

Another theme on the panel was that interactive marketing must be well-crafted in order to be effective. "You need to deliver a great, quality experience," Viles said. "As quick as people are to adapt, they're as quick to leave."

Hazel Nussbaum, brand building manager for Unilever's AXE Deo, echoed the advice that "if you're going to interrupt the party it better be good."

"You have to know what [your target audience is] interested in, find that unique content and make it relevant," she said. Rather than delivering a conventional TV ad message, "you're giving them something they can play with."

Time Warner Cable has created vertically oriented video-on-demand channels such as Journey TV and Automotive On Demand, that has been appealing for local and regional advertisers. "If there's a good consumer experience people will seek that out," Lapa said.

And along with the new interactive ad formats there's "an ocean of data," Lapa said, from sources including set-top boxes. There are still privacy issues that need to be addressed before set-top data becomes more widely available, according to Lapa.

Added Iwata, "Information paralysis is something that sets in sometimes. It is an overwhelming amount of data coming down the pike."