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Making a New Remote Click

Oct 18, 2006  •  Post A Comment

When someone invents a better mousetrap, he’s rarely thinking about putting advertising on the cheese.
Similarly, when someone invents a new electronic program guide that comes with a revolutionary type of remote control, the engineers behind it probably don’t speak marketing.
To the rescue come Mitch Oscar, executive VP of Carat Digital, and the Carat Exchange program, which is designed to bring advertising and media people together with people in technology, content creators and distributors to vet interactive TV propositions.
Mr. Oscar invited Hillcrest Labs to Carat Exchange meetings in New York and Chicago to show off its cool new gadgets. The Rockville, Md.-based company has created a system that employs a doughnut-shaped, point-and-click two-button remote control called The Loop and an EPG that relies largely on graphics to tell viewers what content is available. Point to the content and it telescopes, allowing the viewer to make a selection or get more information. For example, choosing video-on-demand movies would bring up DVD cover art from available films. With a click, a viewer can see who’s in the movies, and another click provides the title of other movies in which a certain actor has appeared.
Today’s typical remote, with its up-down and left-right buttons, “just can’t get it done anymore,” Andy Addis, executive VP of marketing for Hillcrest, told the Exchange in Chicago last week. “A new way to interact with television is required.”
Hillcrest’s system also includes a relational database that brings viewers choices that might interest them, based on choices they’ve made previously. The system was designed to guide a viewer to programming choices on linear television, VOD, digital video recorders and the Internet.
But, Mr. Addis pointed out, the system could work equally well to deliver targeted, interactive advertising messages. “Now is the perfect time for us to start to think about how to adapt or technology to meet the needs of the advertiser,” he said.
The Carat Exchange provides exposure to the advertising community and a way of “creating forums where we can interact with the advertisers so they can give us feedback: ‘I like this. I like that. I don’t like this.
Could you possibly do that?’ That’s the kind of input that will help us build a product that will specifically meet the needs of the advertising community over time.”
Just as Google serves up ads on Web pages that are contextually relevant to consumers, Mr. Addis said Hillcrest can do the same thing in video. “Look at a movie title and we’ll serve up an ad for a product that is dead-between-the-eye targeting the types of people who look at that piece of media,” he said. Then those viewers can get a type of showcase featuring the advertiser’s products, with video, interactive links and other marketing assets.
For example, a viewer “can just point at and click on and play videos of the four different pickup trucks in the Ford line or videos on all the features that distinguish one from the other, or click to get more information about where the nearest dealer is,” he said. “Just as we create immersive content portals for major content providers, we can do the same thing for advertisers.”
But Mr. Oscar noted that not all cool technology automatically turns into effective advertising vehicles. “If we can talk to them first about developing different models, or what we might need, and give them insights from different categories—hip young, older pharmaceuticals, financial—then we can have them speak with the head media people who say, ‘Wow, I like this’ and ‘If you could do this, wouldn’t it be great,'” he said.
Through the Carat Exchange, “we can really experiment and get the forms correct, and that’s what I think is exciting about the Hillcrest opportunity,” Mr. Oscar said. “We’re going to bring in other people, media people who are in the advertising space certainly, and clients, but we’re also going to bring in key research companies.”
Working with research companies is important because they can provide advertisers with measurements of the numbers of people interacting with ads and other data.
“Given their point and click, you’re actually gathering all the clickstream data. So if you build that into your system, wouldn’t that be terrific?” Mr. Oscar said. He would also like to see Hillcrest work with a data-mining company to help refine the EPG’s ability to target customers for advertisers.
If that can be done before launch, it just means we’re going to be ahead of the game,” he said. “They’re going to have better models.”
Mr. Oscar noted that advertisers are still having trouble getting useful metrics on VOD use. Having research systems in place before the Hillcrest systems launch would mean “when they got to market, they’ll offer something richer to us.”
In November, Mr. Oscar plans to gather a think tank to look at Hillcrest in depth. The objective will be to get real clients to provide ads, product descriptions and other assets so a realistic demonstration can be set up. Mr. Oscar noted that the meetings are not limited to Carat and its clients. Other agencies and clients are invited to participate.
Mr. Oscar said the value to Carat is to get in on the ground floor of new concepts and to project an image of leadership for the agency in the media area.
Hillcrest expects to announce its first distribution deals with consumer electronics companies in January during the CES conference in Las Vegas, Mr. Addis said. The company is also “talking to all of the major service providers, we’re talking to the Internet content portals, all of which see very significant applications of our technology, first as solving the problem of how to enable customers to navigate all these choices and unify all the disparate choices of digital media, but right behind that, leveraging the technology to create new ad units and help advertisers make their investments work even that much harder,” he said.
A powerful EPG can bring about major changes in the television landscape. Right now, “I think that what happens today is people have so much difficulty finding interesting things that they default to ‘good enough.’ They sort of compromise, and that’s why they end up watching the same 10 to 15 channels,” Mr. Addis said.
A system like Hillcrest’s will help viewers zero in on content that really interests them.
“The good thing is they will derive a lot of value from that, so their service provider’s going to be very happy because they’re going to be much more likely to want to pay their bill and keep paying that bill, he said.
“The advertisers are going to benefit because the content will be that much more targeted and the viewer will be that much more engaged. It ultimately could affect ratings that people watch because it’s too hard to find anything else.”
This article is part of TVWeek.com’s Media Planner newsletter, a weekly source of breaking news, trend articles, profiles and data about media planning edited by Senior Editor Jon Lafayette.

10 Comments

  1. Cheers for this article, guys, keep up the great work.

  2. Wonderful to read!

  3. Wonderful to read!

  4. Good post, thanks

  5. Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy.

  6. Neat blog layout! Very easy on the eyes.. i like the colors you picked out

  7. Love all the opinions expressed here! How is everyone? Love how everyone expresses whatr they feel 🙂

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