Comcast’s On-Demand Campaign

Apr 3, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Comcast Spotlight will embark this spring on its first consumer marketing campaign for the portion of its video-on-demand service dedicated to advertising and marketing content.

The consumer marketing outreach effort is the latest wrinkle in the evolution of VOD advertising and comes on the heels of other aggressive moves by Comcast in VOD, including the gradual rollout of a VOD advertising insertion capability from Tandberg Television that will insert fresh ads into VOD content. This new marketing effort is the next step, and it indicates that long-form VOD advertising is being taken seriously as a business by operators and marketers.

Along with the marketing campaign, which will kick off later this quarter, Comcast has changed the name on its VOD menus for the bucket of long-form ads from “Spotlight” to “Searchlight.”

“It’s meant to reflect that this is a place to go and look for product information brought to you by advertisers,” said Vicki Lins, VP of marketing and communications for Comcast Spotlight, which remains the name of the advertising sales division for the cable operator.

The marketing campaign is the outgrowth of focus groups Comcast conducted in late January with on-demand users about how they use the service and the category devoted to long-form ads, sponsorships and classifieds. Most users still viewed VOD as a service for entertainment and movies. “We want them to also think of it as a place for information about products and services that are relevant to them,” Ms. Lins said. “We are starting to build critical mass of information on Searchlight, so the time is right to create awareness and drive traffic to Searchlight.”

The number of advertisers using long-form VOD has been growing steadily, and with good results. In December, for instance, Chase sponsored movie trailers on-demand that were seen by 167,000 unique viewers. The spots urged viewers to check out Chase’s long-form VOD ads, and 2,400 unique viewers did. That’s a response rate of a little more than 1 percent, higher than direct mail, Chase’s dominant marketing vehicle.

As Chase and other advertisers use the platform more, Comcast wants to drive usage, which will in turn drive ad rates.

The TV spots promoting “Searchlight” will be tailored for each market and will be used to educate consumers about the product information available. “Folks in Atlanta may sell a showcase to a BMW dealer in Atlanta and that BMW showcase will be only on-demand in Atlanta, so Atlanta would want to promote that automotive showcase in its [Searchlight marketing campaign],” Ms. Lins said.

The focus group research also indicated that consumers want the menu buttons and the navigation to be more descriptive, she said. Comcast is retooling them to better reflect the content.

Most consumers have no idea that they have 3,000 hours of free content of any kind available on-demand, so any effort to educate consumers about VOD is a positive step, said Rob Aksman, director of creative development at interactive agency BrightLine Partners.

But the challenge Comcast faces is the relative lack of content in the advertising portion of the VOD menu, said Mitch Oscar, executive VP of Carat Digital. “There is not enough content in general to create a valuable user experience for after they sample,” he said. “They need reasons to come back.”

However, advertisers do need real estate for video messages that are longer than 30 seconds, he said. “We need as many places to put it as possible. We can put it on VOD, on broadband, in mobisodes.”

To be successful, advertiser-driven VOD content must be compelling and entertaining, Mr. Aksman said. Additionally, he said, it needs some sort of payoff, such as exclusive content, or a motivational hook, such as a contest, sweepstakes or sample. Finally, it must be easy to find, he said.