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Interactive Ads Loom Large in 2006

Nov 28, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Television advertising on linear and on-demand networks promises to get a lot more dynamic in 2006.

Such leading interactive advertising technology firms as Visible World, Navic Networks and GoldPocket Interactive plan to introduce an assortment of new ad tools starting early next year that will help take interactive ads to the next level.

Visible World will peddle ads in national broadcast and cable network content that are contextually relevant to the specific programming in which they reside. GoldPocket will leverage its new position as a division of video-on-demand specialist Tandberg Television to insert interactive ads into VOD programming. Navic Networks intends to extend its reach by letting advertisers buy interactive spots across its 30-market footprint rather than buying on a market-by-market basis, as they have done until now.

These capabilities are important to advertisers not just for what they enable, but also because their deployment suggests that interactive advertising is on track to become much more widespread next year, said Mitch Oscar, executive VP of Carat Digital.

“The more people who deploy these, the more opportunities,” he said.

GoldPocket Interactive was acquired by VOD software and services supplier Tandberg earlier this month with the aim to marry GoldPocket’s interactive tools with Tandberg’s expertise in VOD.

That combination will bring an entirely new level of interactivity to VOD, said Scott Newnam, president of GoldPocket.

Mr. Newnam cited the following scenario as an example: A cable viewer is watching an episode of CBS’s “CSI” on-demand. The local cable system uses Tandberg’s AdPoint technology, which allows cablers to insert targeted, relevant ads into VOD content on a daily basis, to deliver a GoldPocket-enabled interactive Best Buy ad. The viewer clicks on the remote to request a coupon for a discount off an iPod Nano at Best Buy, then returns to the program. The coupon appears in the mail a few days later.

GoldPocket will also build its hotspotting technology into VOD ads so a viewer can click on a pair of Gap jeans, jump to a Gap microsite to buy the jeans, then return to the on-demand program.

“What you needed was Tandberg and GoldPocket to do that. No one has done interactivity in an on-demand environment,” Mr. Newnam said.

That kind of interactivity is feasible with spots residing in linear content, but not yet in VOD content. In the past, enhanced linear spots have been limited by time constrictions-the viewer has a short window before the program resumes and must make a quick decision about requesting a coupon or rebate that is teased in the ad, said Raj Amin, president of Amin Media, a strategic consultancy focused on new media. With interactivity melded into VOD ads, viewers can spend time interacting and return to the program whenever they want. “On-demand is a more effective medium for direct response-type capabilities,” Mr. Amin said.

Tandberg and GoldPocket will look for additional ways to combine VOD and interactivity, such as linking two VOD programs, said Braxton Jarratt, VP of marketing for Tandberg TV, who is working on the integration of Tandberg and GoldPocket technology. “Combining the richness of VOD with interactive TV and the capability to go back and forth seamlessly is pretty powerful,” he said.

Visible World plans to extend its capabilities next year to make advertising more contextually relevant to the programming. The company has built its business on delivering targeted ads into neighborhoods for local cable systems in more than 60 markets, including most of Comcast’s footprint. Now the addressable-advertising firm says it’s talking to networks and agencies about using its tools to make national spots more relevant.

For instance, if a viewer is watching a football game, an advertiser’s spokesperson or character might reference the most recent play in the game, such as, “How about that touchdown by the Indianapolis Colts?” or, “Bummer about the San Francisco 49ers fumble,” before going into the rest of the commercial.

That means the advertising refers creatively to the show it’s in-possibly to the latest play in the game, the contestant who was just eliminated on the reality show or the story arc in a scripted show. “Tying your advertising to the show is the best way to take on the [viewer’s] intent,” said Seth Haberman, CEO and founder of Visible World. “We are tying in the creative expression of the commercial to the context in which it’s being placed.”

Mr. Haberman said Visible World is working with agencies and networks about developing advertising campaigns of this ilk for the first or second quarter of next year.

If an advertiser can target a spot to time of day or outcome of a reality show, suddenly the advertiser is extremely timely to the event, said Alan Schulman, chief creative officer with new media creative agency Brand New World, who has worked with Visible World.

He expects that forward-thinking creative shops such as GSD&M and Crispin Porter will take advantage of the capability in 2006. “All it will take is for the first smart agency to step up,” he said.

Shooting a larger number of scenarios to create different puzzle pieces for ads means the production costs will rise on the front end. However, advertisers can make up for that by being more targeted with the media buy on the back end, Mr. Schulman said.

Mr. Haberman explained that production is typically only 6 percent to 7 percent of an advertiser’s budget, and different permutations for ads might simply mean additional voice-over or graphics, which are not expensive to produce.

Navic Networks is also targeting 2006 for a host of expansions. The GoldPocket competitor has already deployed in more than 30 cable markets tools that make local spots interactive. Operators include Cox, Time Warner and Charter. Navic will introduce software functionality to enable cable operators or spot cable rep firm National Cable Communications to sell ads across its 30-plus markets, said Tom Walsh, senior VP for Navic. While that’s by no means a national footprint for interactivity, it does represent one of the first opportunities for an advertiser to buy interactive spots across more than one cable market. “We will make this available to the MSOs. They would turn it on for the national advertisers,” Mr. Walsh said.

Navic will deploy telescoping-linking a 30-second interactive ad to a long-form VOD spot-in several major markets in the coming months. Tandberg also plans to deploy telescoping capability next year.