The Death Knell for ITV Ads?

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The decision by Canoe’s board to deep-six its interactive
TV business will, inevitably, be seen as
a deadly blow to the whole concept of clickable
TV spots.

There’s obviously some appetite among bigspending
marketers to harness the power of ITV
ads. But the lack of traction and ultimate demise
of Canoe’s “request for information” and other
ITV products shows that on a national level, the
cable industry alone could not deliver the necessary
scale and efficiency to ring the cash register.

But wait a second: There’s still plenty of ITV
action in local markets.

Businesses ranging from car dealerships to retailers
see interactive ads as a great way to reach
prospective customers. And since they’re dealing
with just one operator — and only on the local inventory
that the MSOs control — the sales process is significantly
easier than with Canoe RFI, which relied on cable network
partners to sell the ITV features.

Comcast Spotlight, for one, touted the fact that last fall it
had executed more than 1,000 ITV campaigns for clients,
serving up more than 2.7 billion impressions to viewers. By
contrast, Canoe had served just 35.3 million interactive overlays
through September 2011 — and not all of those were
even ads.

Cablevision and AT&T AdWorks have also claimed great
results from interactive spots. “We have 100 car dealers running
ads, and multiple campaigns,” David Kline, president
and COO of Cablevision Media Sales, said on a
panel at MCN/B&C’s OnScreen Media Summit
in December. “I know they’re running because
we’re getting leads.”

Newly appointed Canoe CEO Joel Hassell, formerly
the venture’s CTO, apparently expected
the market to conclude from the JV’s mothballing
of the ITV products that interactive TV ads are
dead. In his prepared remarks, Hassell said,
“Cable’s ITV business will continue through the
ad sales teams and video business units at the
individual MSOs, as they pursue business opportunities
with these capabilities within their own

Meanwhile, there will also be the tendency to
look at Canoe’s failures and think: Here we go
again — another cable consortium that didn’t fly.

But for every Pivot and @Home, there’s a CableLabs and
NCC Media that demonstrate multi-operator collaborations
can work well.

Companies (and industries) try — and fail — to introduce
new products all the time. Just because Canoe couldn’t
push the national interactive TV advertising rock up the hill
doesn’t mean joint ventures can’t succeed in other areas.

Canoe could become relevant, if it can learn from its past
and build a workable, and high-scale, platform for dynamic
ad insertion on VOD. That said, you can bet your bottom dollar
that Canoe’s track record so far will make it far tougher to
convince Madison Avenue to buy in to anything it does.