Cable advertising gains new flexibility with technology

Jun 17, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Visible World and Adlink recently celebrated Mother’s Day with an all-digital trial-sending a television ad for 1-800-Flowers through the cable headend to Adlink’s 3.5 million subscribers in the Los Angeles area, altering the offer to reflect differing viewer demographic segments and changing business conditions.
Visible World’s sophisticated production tools made it relatively simple to modify the original video to create multiple ads with new video, text, graphics, music and language tracks. These changes are a lot cheaper to make than a whole new ad would be to create-and ads can be updated on the fly if necessary, said Bill Borrelle, VP of marketing for Visible World.

“It was all digital-all MP3 files flying around-no trafficking of tapes, which was a big win for the agency and the advertiser. We had dynamic countdowns making the daily changes of messages and offers automatically,” he said.
New York-based Visible World, founded in 1999, announced a partnership with Adlink, the nation’s leading digital cable interconnect, in May. Visible World president and founder Seth Haberman was a pioneer in the business of nonlinear editing, holding patents that were purchased by Avid Technologies and which underscore many of its systems. His company’s chief competitor in this space is Everstream, which has partnerships with Concurrent Computer Corp. and nCUBE and offers a product that is most useful in a video-on-demand setting. A household profile is matched with advertising stored in the same server, and the appropriate ad is sent out.
The Visible World-Adlink relationship will take advantage of Adlink’s digital insertion system, powered by technology from video-server company SeaChange International, which ensures that the right video segments are delivered to the correct households. With Adlink’s Adtag, the first 25 seconds of a spot remains identical across the market, but during the final five seconds of a spot, advertisers can display a different dealer, franchise or retail tags for different locations. So viewers see, for example, the Honda dealership that is closest to them, not just the dealership association. Adlink’s Adcopy is even more sophisticated, enabling advertisers to run different commercials simultaneously in specified sections of a market, tailoring their message to the appropriate audience and reducing waste.
For example, a father of three in Beverly Hills, Calif., who watches “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central might see a commercial for a minivan, while a single male in Hollywood would see a commercial for a convertible.
Mr. Borrelle said one of the strongest reasons to do this kind of segmentation is that it is almost the direct opposite of traditional targeting. Instead of advertisers just buying premium households, which is the usual direct-mail model, this technology allows them to hit every household with the most effective message, thus increasing the return from less-than-ideal markets. For instance, not every household is a potential customer for the $50,000 Lincoln Navigator, but virtually everyone is a potential buyer of some model Ford.
“Everybody is competing for the most desirable households. So the inventory owner may have to sell those less-desirable households at a deep discount, which may be higher than the premium for the good households,” Mr. Borrelle said. “But by smart targeting, inventory owners can increase the value of advertising to households that are overall less than optimal.”
Another advantage is that this technology allows advertisers to hold onto customers that traditionally went to print or radio for last-minute pushes. For example, auto dealers that put on a price-intensive sales effort often abandon TV in favor of something more flexible as the sale wears on. Mr. Borrelle thinks the flexibility afforded by Visible World’s technology can overcome this obstacle and keep this kind of advertiser spending for TV instead of for something else.
Distributing ads directly costs advertisers as little as 5 percent more and as much as 200 percent more than a mass market one-shot spot, said Mr. Borrelle. 1-800-Flowers spent about $140,000 for its pre-Mother’s Day push, overlaying the ad it created for less-targeted uses in other markets. Visible World expects to put its technology to work in a dozen more markets this year, Mr. Borrelle said, taking advantage of the areas where SeaChange already has ad servers in place.