Taking ITV for a Drive

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DirecTV Inc. signed an agreement with Chrysler Group that will see the automaker deliver ads to DirecTV subscribers via set-tops enabled with interactive software and to customers with the DBS carrier’s new digital video recorders.

The deal will allow subscribers watching a 30-second spot from DirecTV’s advertising inventory to press a red button on the remote to access features such as the ability to schedule a test drive for the Chrysler 300, or to view video clips that show the making of the car and how it performs on a track.

DirecTV senior vice president of advanced services and content Eric Shanks also said DirecTV subscribers may be able to use the remote to customize the Chrysler 300 on their screens by choosing from various paint schemes or wheels.

RED-BUTTON IMPORT

News Corp.’s British Sky Broadcasting plc satellite platform uses a similar red interactive button on its remote controls, a model for DirecTV’s interactive strategy.

EchoStar Communications Corp. has also added interactive advertising to its Dish Network platform in recent months, announcing a similar interactive advertising deal with Mercedes-Benz USA in March. The Dish ads for Mercedes-Benz’s new M-Class car enabled subscribers to link to a Web-like environment where they could view an expanded version of an ad called “Test Track.”

DirecTV’s interactive ads have more of an emphasis on video content than the ads that run on rival Dish, Shanks said.

“Everything that we do is going to revolve around the television experience,” said Shanks. “The EchoStar campaign didn’t have any audio or video with it at all. Everything we do is going to be an immersive television experience. It will always have video or multiple pieces of video.”

DirecTV also said Chrysler has joined its new advertising development partner program.

The DBS provider will conduct focus groups with subscribers to measure the effectiveness of the Chrysler ads and help come up new ideas for interactive messages, as part of the program.

Twentieth Television, a News Corp. sibling of DirecTV, oversees the DBS carrier’s ad sales. Shanks said DirecTV is looking to sign three other “cornerstone advertisers” for the advertising development partner program.

“Automotive is probably one of the best categories that lends itself to interactivity,” Shanks said, noting that DirecTV has had positive talks with advertisers from several other sectors about ITV ads. “Packaged goods, I think, are great. The theatrical and video game industry is fantastic. I think consumer electronics is another great category.”

The distributor, which currently counts 13.9 million subscribers, plans to store interactive content and long-form ads on its new DirecTV DVRs, which are scheduled to debut in the middle of 2005.

ON 'ACTIVE ITV’

Ads from Chrysler and other interactive advertisers will also be included in the DBS company’s new DirecTV Active ITV service, scheduled to launch during the next two weeks.

Ads from Chrysler and other ITV advertisers will also be added to exclusive DirecTV programming, including its Newsmix and Sportsmix genre mosaic channels and its “NFL Sunday Ticket” package.

DirecTV will launch new interactive services by the end of the year or in early 2006 that will focus on content involving movies and music, Shanks added.

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