Cox, AT&T Detail Their Ad-Sales Tests

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Chicago— AT&T Broadband and Cox Communications Inc. executives used last week's National Show to provide more details on their separate ad-sales tests.

AT&T vice president of national ad sales Marc Favaro discussed his MSO's addressable advertising test, while Cox vice president of new business development Debby Mullin talked about her company's video-on-demand ad experiment.

Both MSOs announced their initiatives at mid-May's Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau local-sales conference in Orlando, Fla.

Forrester Research has projected that VOD growth will be strong next year, and come 2006, 40 percent of all TV viewing will be "on demand," said Mullin. Although most forecasts focus on VOD movies, Mullin said there's more to the technology than theatricals.

"It's also a new marketing medium," she said. "Advertising in VOD is more than a 30-second spot before a show — it can also be
the show."

Cox plans to test VOD advertising this fall at its San Diego system via a dedicated virtual channel tentatively dubbed the "Cox VOD Free Zone." In marketing that service to consumers, it will be important to let consumers know the service is free, thereby removing one likely barrier, said Mullin.

The test will span four months and involve 100,000 digital-cable customers, she added.

Showing a demo menu, Mullin said program titles could include "Great Vacation Escapes," "Celebrity All-Star Event," "Power Workouts" and "Home Repair How-Tos."

Sponsor or brand names also would be visible, she said, pointing to a fictitious Velocity athletic-shoe brand from the "Celebrity All-Star Event" listing.

Upon clicking any one of those titles, a consumer would be led to a menu of video choices, she said. The viewer would be able to pause, rewind or fast-forward those videos, Mullin added.

Why would anyone want to watch such fare? Answering her own question, Mullin said: "The answer is always content. It's got to be useful, informative, entertaining, innovative."

A lot of interesting content is already catching on, thanks to Internet-based video streaming, she added.

AT&T's household addressable-ad trial — which will involve 30,000 Denver homes — will start in late August or early September, Favaro said last week. Last month, he described it as a third-quarter test.

During that test, which will involve ACTV Inc., advertisers like Kraft Foods will target different product spots to different demographic "buckets" of subscribers, said Favaro.

As part of a subsequent phase, the clients will zero in on even more refined buckets and will try to measure how the ads affect product sales, using subscribers' frequent-shopper cards.

Favaro, who said the MSO had learned much from a six-month Waterloo, Iowa, test involving WorldGate Communications Inc.'s HyperLinking technology, said AT&T Broadband late this year also plans to test interactive and video-on-demand services. In addition, it is in negotiations with several companies about a personal-video-recorder test.

Due in the first quarter of 2002, that test would study how subscribers time-shift programs, among other things, he said.

AT&T Broadband is also looking forward to generating viewership data from its digital set-top boxes, starting next year.

Adlink CEO Charlie Thurston described the Los Angeles interconnect's capabilities — such as Adtag, which enables an automotive client to insert different dealership tags for different areas of the Los Angeles DMA, or Adcopy, which allows Dodge to target its Neon model to some neighborhoods while advertising its Caravan minivan to others.

"Adtag and Adcopy are not truly one-on-one advertising," Thurston said, "but it is 'Targeted TV'… and it sets the stage for one-on-one advertising."

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