'Pulling’ In Ad Dollars

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As part of the seemingly never-ending search for an on-demand advertising revenue models, TiVo Inc., in partnership with ad agencies, media buyers and sales representatives such as Comcast Spotlight, will offer a television-based advertising browser over its platform next spring.

TiVo and its other partners — the Interpublic Group of Cos., OMD, Starcom Mediavest Group and The Richards Group — will spend the next few months figuring out the details of the service, which they believe will enable subscribers to search for rich advertising content by entering a keyword on TV screens. One of the key details yet to be determined: how to price the advertising.

Digital video recorder maker TiVo can track each transaction through layers of content, so a pay-per-click model is one that will be considered, TiVo vice president of national advertising sales Davina Kent said.

The partners were selected because they are among the most aggressive in the on-demand space and represent client activities across a cross-section of content categories, Kent said. Together, the search-engine developers will determine “relevant categories of interest” from among the automotive, travel, telecommunications and packaged-goods sectors.

TiVo already has experience in interactive-advertising arena, she noted. Last June, it launched taggable ads for General Motors Corp. and The WB. The technology affords advertisers a customized call-to-action on their spots.

The tag is designed to make the commercial more visible in fast-forward mode; viewers may also click on it to view long-form content. The tagged content also gives consumers a means to opt in to an offer by providing their names and contact numbers —allowing TiVo and advertisers to track leads to actual product sales.

GM used the technology to promote its OnStar customer-assistance product and its GMC, Chevrolet and Saturn brands. During The WB’s spots, TiVo users could touch a green “thumbs up” button on their remote to automatically schedule a single recording, or a full season, of the show mentioned in the commercial.

Other advertisers, including Ameriquest Mortgage Services, E*Trade Financial Corp., Nautilus Inc., Novartis AG and McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals for its Tylenol brand pain reliever, have also engaged in taggable TiVo ads, a program that Kent labels as successful, though she didn’t quantify its results.

Taggable spots are more of a “push” technology, Kent said. The product under development will be more of a “pull” experience, in which the consumer will select the advertising content they wish to see. That content will be a regular feature on TiVo’s “Now Playing” interface, positioned as “special offers” or “information,” rather than as advertising. The content could be anything from a traditional 30-second spot to long-form messaging, she said.

TiVo currently counts some 3.6 million subscribers, based in part through relationships with Comcast Corp., Cablevision Systems Corp., Cebridge Connections and the National Cable Television Cooperative, as well as DirecTV Inc., according to the company. But direct-broadcast satellite provider DirecTV, TiVo’s leading customer, has stopped marketing the company’s DVRs in order to push its in-house DirecTV Plus recorders.

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