Historic Broadband Ad Steps

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Madison Avenue is starting to hear all the marketplace noise made by video-on-demand, digital video recorders and even two-screen ITV, said A&E Television Networks vice president of interactive ad sales Bill Jennings.

In October, General Motors Corp. broke 30-second spots at the opening and closing of a number of AETN programs available on the free on-demand (FOD) platforms of Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable, Jennings said.

AETN supplies the two MSOs with 25 hours of VOD content each month, including content from The Biography Channel and The History Channel.

IBM On History

In December, IBM is sponsoring a two-screen ITV experience built around History's "Boys Toys Week" (Dec. 1 to 5).

That mirrors Mazda's two-screen interactive sponsorship for the TVography shows, which ran in last year's fourth quarter as part of the A&E Network signature series Biography.

"With certain categories, we're seeing an interest in getting involved in these new platforms, whether its ITV or VOD," Jennings said. "There is a lot of interest from major advertising agencies.

"Their interest is in getting feedback on the number of users and time spent with advertising and the program," he added. "Most major agencies now have a senior-level executive focusing on emerging TV technologies. We see that number increasing every couple of months."

Some of that interest is defensive, as DVRs stand to reshape the entire TV-advertising business. But there is an increasing willingness to understand how all the new technologies will affect advertising in the future, Jennings said.

"Mazda was really pleased with the results" of its fourth-quarter 20003 ITV test, Jennings said. The automaker sponsored TVography, which ran every Monday night in the quarter. The series gave vintage television shows Biography-style treatment.

Viewers could log online to Biography's Web site (www.biography.com) to answer TV trivia questions or questions about the on-air Mazda advertising and receive prizes. GoldPocket Interactive worked with A&E to sync up the online and on-air interactivity.

December's Boy Toys will follow a similar pattern, Jennings said. Final details are being worked out, but the show — a profile of high-tech gadgets and products for men — will have an interactive Web component sponsored by IBM Corp.

On the VOD front, GM began running 30 seconds for its Chevrolet and Buick nameplates on various A&E VOD programs during the first week of October.

"We're seeing a lot of interest in VOD from advertisers, including long-form advertising that is clutter-free," said Jennings. "There is an overall interest in the demographic profile of the VOD users."

Of course, there are also a lot of questions. Still to be determined, he said, are the basic acceptance rates for VOD advertising, which metrics can be applied, how many people will watch and how they'll react to ads during VOD programs.

"Should we be running a 10-second intro and infomercial at the end, or do you interrupt the programming?" Jennings asked. "There are different answers from different people."

Nielsen Media Research plans to work with companies to explore VOD ratings. It has signed a deal with SeaChange International Inc. to develop a ratings system, based on the data culled from its servers. Nielsen is also talking to MSOs about VOD ratings trials.

Ad Impact

Advertising dollars could also help VOD's cause, Jennings said.

"There is enough interest from the markets, and if they get enough data back they will want to get involved with VOD," he said. "It's logical that advertising could have very strong impact and ratings will help the cause."

How much? Jennings isn't sure. "We're getting a lot of requests for VOD in 2004," he noted.

Rate cards for these new technologies are under development, he said. Sometimes VOD advertising can be pulled out as a separate budget, other times it is bundled with an existing buy, he said.

"We're seeing many different scenarios develop as to how it's being paid for," he said. "It's truly all over the map."

But Jennings believes that good things can result. "We're very bullish on VOD and ITV, and are actively talking a number agencies on these programs."

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