Spotlight Shines With Segmentation Tools

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Until Comcast Corp. began rolling out segmentation tools that let advertisers tailor ads to viewers, there wasn’t much of a difference in what the MSO’s systems and their competitors at local broadcast stations could offer media buyers.

If anything, broadcast offered advertisers a more efficient way to reach an entire market with a commercial.

But this year — with the wide deployment of the Adtag and Adcopy tools by Comcast Spotlight, the MSO’s local ad-sales unit — Comcast has been able to offer advertisers something broadcast can’t deliver: the ability to transmit different versions of the same spot to viewers who reside in various parts of the same DMA. Commercials can be segmented either geographically or demographically.

Case in point: United Airlines used Adtag and Adcopy in Chicago earlier this year to juice a campaign for its low-cost carrier, Ted.

Viewers in suburban Arlington Heights saw a tag on the commercial that says, “Arlington Heights, say hello to Ted.” Those who watched in Chicago’s North Shore or in other regions saw similar messages, designed to speak directly to the viewer.

Adtag and Adcopy were introduced by Los Angeles interconnect Adlink in 1996. But the tools were never used widely until Comcast expanded its rollout of Adlink and Adcopy this year to 28 markets.

Given its push to make the segmentation applications a standard tool for advertisers, Comcast earns Multichannel News’s 2004 Innovator Award for ad sales.

Comcast doesn’t charge advertisers extra money to use Adtag, which allows clients to run the same 30-second spot throughout a DMA, but lets them tag the last five seconds with the name of a local dealer or franchise.

It also doesn’t ask advertisers like Ford to pay extra money for Adcopy, which it has used to simultaneously run multiple versions of the same spot in a single market, pitching subscribers in the suburbs on SUVs while touting the Mustang to city dwellers.

“We don’t charge a premium for it because it’s so early,” said Comcast Spotlight senior vice president Hank Oster. “Our strategy is to get clients to use the business, to increase our share with clients or to break new business that we’re currently not getting.”

Some advertisers are beginning to experiment with Adtag and Adcopy, which Comcast licenses from technology vendor Visible World.

But Oster said only a “very small percentage” of the local ads that Comcast systems run are enhanced with the software.

Oster said he was disappointed that no political media buyers used Adtag and Adcopy before the November election, but he expects that will soon change.

“I think by the next midterm election [in 2006], and certainly four years from now, Adtag and Adcopy will be without a doubt in their media mix,” Oster added. “It just has so much viability for political candidates, as it does for any advertiser.”

Comcast plans to expand Adtag and Adcopy to an additional 10 markets in 2005, Oster says.

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