TiVo gives advertisers a personal-video platform

Jun 24, 2002  •  Post A Comment

TiVo, the commercial-zapping personal TV service consumers love but which sends chills down the spines of Madison Avenue executives, is quietly luring marketers to experiment with extended-form ads and promotions. The aim is to get viewers to actually choose to view ad content by making it as compelling as the programming.
Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures Entertainment and RealNetworks launched last week what TiVo refers to as “showcases” of unique content to its 420,000 subscribers. The showcases, which offer at least 10 minutes of digital video on the TiVo service, give advertisers the ability to create content packages that go well beyond a 30-second TV spot.
TiVo’s advertainment concept is only the latest in a series of seismic shifts pulling Madison Avenue into the Hollywood orbit and which underscore that the advertising medium is in a deep identity crisis. Though agencies have long sought product placements for marketers, they’ve aggressively stepped up relationships with content creators as the traditional TV spot loses its punch.
“This is important because television as we know it is going to die in the next five years,” said Jim Nail, Forrester Research’s Internet media analyst. “Instead of being on a network schedule, it’s going to become demand-driven. Consumers will either have a TiVo box, or the capability will be offered by cable and satellite TV companies. Consumers are going to have this capability to watch what they want when they want it, and this will clearly change how they relate to advertisers.
“Does anyone care about 420,000 subscribers?” he added. “Probably not. Should companies begin to think about what an advertisement is? Emphatically yes.”
Sony Pictures is offering a 90-second trailer as well as three separate packages of movie excerpts for a total of 10 minutes for “Mr. Deeds,” a film that debuts June 28 and stars Adam Sandler.
“We know from studies we’ve done that the [personal video recorder] is a wonderful application and compelling to the consumer, so as an ncy we want to learn about ways to exploit the PVR and find compelling applications for our advertisers,” said Mitch Oscar, senior VP and director of media futures for Universal McCann.
Sony Pictures Entertainment is a client of the Interpublic Group of Cos. unit. Interpublic itself has been aggressively exploring the convergence of advertising and entertainment and is reportedly seeking to acquire a talent agency.
RealNetworks is offering TiVo subscribers a taste of its Major League Baseball package to drive signups for its Real One premium streaming audio and video service. The MLB package on Real One offers condensed 20-minute versions of baseball games. TiVo subscribers will see three minutes of Real’s 20-minute game and will be offered a 14-day trial.
“From the perspective of the advertisers, there are some really interesting and compelling aspects to this. You have 10 minutes to engage with the viewer,” said Jim Monroe, executive producer, TiVo. “You don’t have to produce a spot that has to break through the commercial clutter. Viewers have opted to see this stuff. … It’s a wide-open canvas.”
TiVo is working to develop a viable rate plan for these kinds of packages. The company’s executives would not comment on rates for the new programs.
A recently concluded three-week program with Best Buy Co., which sells PVRs manufactured by Sony Electronics, Philips Electronics and others, offered TiVo subscribers 13 minutes of exclusive video of product vignettes, interviews with singer Sheryl Crow (who stars in the retailer’s national ad campaign) and a CD giveaway. The showcase gave Best Buy a chance to creatively repurpose advertising created by BBA, the Minneapolis-based retailer’s in-house agency.
TiVo subscribers engaged the showcases from the TiVo Central screen. Preliminary data show more than 50 percent of TiVo subscribers accessed the retailer’s showcase in some way, opting in for as long as 13 minutes. The average time spent with the showcase was six minutes, according to Mollie Weston, manager of production, BBA.
“We’re all just trying to figure out what to do with this space. The primary goal was to learn how to use this new avenue,” she said.