Cox tries ad-backed VOD

Aug 19, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Cox Communications today launches the first cable trial of an ad-supported video-on-demand service with marketers that include Coca-Cola’s Diet Coke, Kraft Foods, Sony Music Entertainment’s Epic Records label and Volvo North America.
Cox, the country’s fifth-largest cable operator, is introducing the FreeZone VOD service to digital cable subscribers in its San Diego market and will run the advertising trial through Dec. 20. The service is offered gratis to digital cable customers, who number in the “hundreds of thousands,” according to a Cox spokesman. Cox declined to specify the fees associated with the trial other than to say they are to cover basic expenses.
Participating advertisers will get to experiment with on-demand advertising whereby viewers choose whether they want to engage with products, services, brand messages and promotions. The goal is to determine how consumers interact with long-form content, or content that’s longer than a traditional 30-second TV spot. FreeZone advertisers are deploying ad programs ranging from five minutes to 30 minutes in length, according to Debby Mullin, VP of marketing and new media advertising, Cox. The common denominator is it’s free and it’s somehow advertiser-supported or advertiser content,” Ms. Mullin said.
Coke’s Diet Coke will debut “What’s your 20?” a series of five-minute vignettes about a 20-year-old woman’s experience as a production assistant on an independent film. Sony Music Entertainment’s Epic label will use FreeZone to highlight new artists such as Good Charlotte and Howie Day, showcase new projects by established artists such as Tori Amos and video-biographies, music videos and other content. “We have a lot of footage and interesting content that would be of interest to a music consumer that’s rarely seen,” said Lori Lambert, VP of strategic marketing and development for Sony’s Epic Records Group. Coke and Sony Music are clients of Interpublic Group of Cos.’ Universal McCann, New York, media unit. Volvo showcases its new XC90 sport utility vehicle on FreeZone programming on the Volvo Ocean Race and the science of sailing. “Video-on-demand is going to be a very important technology in the advertising world,” said Kirt Gunn, president of Cylo, New York, the digital agency that partnered with Volvo and its agency, Havas’ Euro RSCG Circle, New York, on the Cox effort. For auto marketers, long-form video content could enable virtual test drives and generate leads and traffic to dealers, Mr. Gunn said.
“Certain advertisers are hip to the fact that the medium of television is changing,” said Tim Hanlon, VP and director of emerging contacts, Bcom3 Group’s Starcom MediaVest Group, Chicago. “Those that understand time-shifted viewing and on-demand viewing and perhaps interactive types of experiences while viewing, understand what the VOD advertising opportunity is with Cox,” he added. Kraft, a Starcom client, will feature more than one of its brands on FreeZone.
Viewers who opt in for more information on a FreeZone advertiser will see a privacy policy posted. If they choose to opt in, viewers will see a screen that asks whether they want to access a particular offer. Another screen informs consumers that the billing address Cox has for them will be sent to the advertiser to fulfill the request. But even then, viewers get another chance to say, “No thank you.”
“I think [FreeZone] does bring interactive lead generation to VOD, the fact that people can opt in to give information,” Ms. Mullin said. “Frankly, I think that it opens the door to creative approaches to advertising that just haven’t been seen before.”