Wink Forms Interactive-Ad Research Division

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New York-Wink Communications Inc. last week formed a new advertising-research and targeting division.

It also named Kevin Patrick Smith as senior vice president and general manager of the New York-based division.

At a press conference, Wink CEO Maggie Wilderotter also unveiled new research tools the enhanced-television company plans to deploy later this year to allow interactive-advertising clients to measure their success in reaching target audiences.

By the end of the third quarter, Wink plans to have 2 million Charter Communications Inc. and DirecTV Inc. subscribers available as a test sample to gain data on how consumers behave with enhanced-television ads.

"Our goal is to deliver research products to measure an ad's effectiveness and to provide the ability to target an ad's offer," Wilderotter said.

For example, advertisers can send an enhanced overlay on a televised automotive commercial, offering a free computer bag to males in the 18- to 34-year-old target group who agree to test-drive the car. They can then switch to an offer of additional information on product safety to women aged 25 to 45.

Because Wink can measure which ads gain the best response, it can help advertisers to quickly adjust future offers.

Advertisers can target different audiences by daypart, programming and household information.

Ultimately, Wink hopes to give each household member a user code so advertisers can target ads even more directly.

Wilderotter said it was up to advertisers to alter offers for different targets. But she said she didn't think women would necessarily be offended by receiving offers different from those directed at their husbands.

Research has shown that men respond more strongly to incentive-based offers than women, she said, and that women are typically more concerned with safety issues. With the interactive-advertising research, she added, "We can validate whether that's good data or not."

As part of the research, Wink can filter out multiple requests for a product brochure or discount coupon that come from a single household. "We make sure we're not overcounting" in homes with overzealous teen-agers, Wilderotter said.

Wink generates revenue from every local, regional or national commercial that runs over the Wink-enhanced network. Distributors such as DirecTV also get cuts, as do broadcast networks that run Wink ads.

Wilderotter said cable programmers are using the interactive features "as a huge boon" to be able to sell off excess advertising inventory.

DirecTV recently began beta tests of Wink technology in "friendly" homes, including those of its employees. The direct-broadcast satellite provider plans to download Wink software to all RCA-branded DirecTV receivers that have been made this year, DirecTV senior vice president of advanced products and new media Brad Beales said.

"That's a fairly big number," he added, noting that DirecTV and its retail partners are deploying new boxes very rapidly this year. Later this fall, new set-tops will be sold with Wink software already enabled.

"We'll be the largest interactive-television network in the world by the end of the year," Beales predicted.

DirecTV will deliver the software downloads over time so that the company can monitor call volumes to its call centers.

DirecTV customers will learn about the new features through direct mail and on-screen messages. The company will also have a special Wink home page on its Web site to answer subscriber questions.

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