Interactive Ads: Gauging Potential and Reality


Somewhere between “now” and
“five years from now,” television programmers,
distributors and advertisers will
know whether interactive and targeted advertising
will reach its potential.

For now, experts at an industry conference
made clear, there’s incentive on all sides to realize
that potential and enthusiasm over what’s
happening right now at cable operators, including
Cablevision Systems and Comcast.

There’s also a realization that failure to use
technology to increase the effectiveness of
TV advertising runs the risk of putting cable
into the same troubled boat as local broadcast-TV stations.

“Dollars follow eyeballs,” said Time Warner
Cable Media Sales New York regional vice president
Steve Jacobs during a panel session at the
Feb. 22 event in New York, put on by Multichannel
News and Broadcasting & Cable magazines.
“If we are content to sit with what we have, then
we fall to the broadcast model.”

Interactive advertising has left the development
stage at Cablevision, said executive
vice president of cable platform sales Barry
Frey, and the New York-centric MSO is
rolling out products. They include dedicated
branded channels, showcases and more
specific offerings such as “Select RFI,” where
customers press a button on their remotes to
receive product information and catalogs via
the mail, and “Select to Save,” which allows
viewers to save the long-form ad content to
watch later.

Cable efforts, building on the Enhanced
TV Binary Interchange Format foundation
for interactive advertising across operator
platforms, are getting noticed on Madison
Avenue. After Comcast Spotlight and
other partners, including Starcom Media-
Vest, recently reported very positive adengagement
results from an EBIF trial in
Baltimore, GroupM emerging media director
Michael Bologna said he received 150
phone calls from clients wondering what
the results meant in the context of different
interactive-ad developments.

In a keynote Q&A, Bologna called the Baltimore
trial a “successful addressable experiment”
but said more tests are necessary to
drive home how addressable technology can
work for advertisers who have been slow to
get involved in the space. GroupM also has
its own trials in place.

Bologna said reports of one-off efforts from
the likes of Cablevision or Comcast confuse
clients because different providers are trying
different products.

"The one thing that I would say to the industry that would help our clients is if the sales organizations of all the different players could consolidate a little bit," he said.

Bologna said the union of Comcast and the
networks of NBC Universal could advance the
cause by bringing together two parts of the triangle
— big programmer and big distributor
— omitting only the technology provider.

Canoe Platforms, the cable-backed consortium
to roll out interactive advertising on
a national scale, also is on the right track, but
Bologna predicted: “It’ll take Canoe five years
to deploy a solution that’s currently in the
market now, like what Cablevision is talking
about or what Comcast is talking about.”

SeaChange International chief strategy officer Yvette Kanouff , on another panel, said
that Canoe gets a bad rap for what it hasn’t
done, but not enough credit for what it has

“What it has done is taken all the operators
and tried to create a level of consistency,
which is a huge task,” Kanouff said.
“They have made incredible strides … There
is a lot of potential for what Canoe brings.”

Rentrak Advanced Media Information division
president Cathy Hetzel said Canoe’s potential
for building a big base of interactivity
is “fantastic,” but “I think it won’t stop anyone
from moving forward” on individual rollouts.