CTAM Summit 2009: Advanced Ads Already Pay Dividends: Panel

Ratings, engagement levels improve with interactive advertising

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Interactive advertising even its current, developing form has shown it can improve a show's ratings and get viewers more engaged with the content, according to media executives working in the arena.

Mark Garner, senior vice president of distribution, marketing and business development at A&E Television Networks, said during a CTAM Summit panel Monday that "trials" of interactive applications used with History programming showed 15%-20% ratings gains.

Engagement levels with interactive applications proved to be longer than AETN typically sees with broadband ads, he said. "They stay in the environment longer," he said.

Peter Low, CEO of Ensequence, the vendor that worked with AETN to create interactive applications on Dish Network for the History program Battles BC, said that when programmers enhance content with interactivity that way, 15-20% of the people with access to that capability will use it. The typical viewer using the interactive mode stays active that way 15 minutes of every hour.

Low said he was encouraged at the steady gains being made in making interactivity widespread. With multichannel video providers adding the Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format to set-tops, enabling some simple interactivity, "we are now looking forward to 2010 and real scale from a distribution and subscriber number point of view."

Tens of millions of EBIF-equipped homes are expected to come on line over the next year or two, he said.

Vicki Lins, chief marketing officer at cable operators' advanced advertising developer Canoe Ventures, said on the panel that Canoe's efforts won't conflict with anything that investor companies Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision Systems, Cox Communications, Charter and Bright House Networks roll out on their own. Canoe is trying to be a bridge among cable operators, programmers, advertisers and media buyers, she said, and the MSOs also realize that for interactive platforms to succeed, satellite and phone company TV platforms must roll them out as well.

Canoe by the end of the year intends to release its Canoe Advanced Advertising Platform, or CAAP. It's intended to work across disparate technologies used by various cable operators, programmers and advertisers. "It will be the biggest step forward the industry has ever taken towards making cable's advanced advertising easy to buy, to use and to measure," she said.

David Porter, vice president of marketing and new media at Cox Media (the ad-sales arm of Cox Communications), addressed privacy concerns that exist among consumers and lawmakers. "Our relationship with the subscriber is our most trusted asset," he said, Cox wouldn't let ad sales, a relatively small of the cable company's overall business, to jeopardize subscribers' trust.

Cox does think it can find ways to exploit the data it gathers from consumers in an anonymous, aggregated fashion that will create new advertising opportunities such as allowing viewers to request more information about a product or service, Porter said.

Lins said Canoe would never go beyond the limits its MSOs have set in terms of using the information it has about cable customers. Cable operators and programmers have to figure out what the right way to exploit the data they have available to them, though. "This an advertising dialogue that needs to take place and we need to change the discussion and recognize that information can be used to the benefit of this industry, without getting ourselves tied up in knots over it."

She said it's still not clear how addressable an ad needs to be most valuable to advertisers - to the home, the neighborhood or the Zip code.

The session, Monday morning, was moderated by BrightLine iTV CEO Jacquie Corbelli, whose agency has handled many interactive TV campaigns. She said advertisers don't fully exploit the addressable features they could on the Web, so there's no huge clamoring for more addressability with TV ads.