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Hitting ’em Squarely at the Point of Purchase

Sep 14, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The interactive program guide has become the ultimate point-of-purchase advertising venue for television and video-on-demand programming because it’s where most television viewers decide what to watch. That’s why ad dollars flowing into IPG advertising for Comcast are doubling each year and why Cablevision began selling ads in its guide in the last month.
Most industry experts say 70% of TV viewers tune into the IPG first when they turn on the TV. So TV networks and VOD programmers such as Fox, FX, HGTV and movie studios want to peddle their shows at the moment when consumers sink down on the couch and pick up the remote.
Comcast started selling spots in the IPG in early 2007. Revenue this year is on pace to double over last year, while revenue next year should double again, said Chip Meehan, VP of advanced ad sales at Comcast Spotlight. He added that four out of five of the broadcast networks now are advertising on Comcast’s IPG, up from one last year. He declined to name which networks.
“It is a no-brainer. It is the ultimate point-of-purchase platform,” he said.
Cablevision has stepped on the gas this summer when it comes to IPG advertising. “This is an area we are expanding into,” said Barry Frey, senior VP of advanced platform sales at the operator. Cablevision has been selling ad space in the IPG to linear networks and VOD programmers; in the past it just sold that space to advertisers that created “branded channels” for the Cablevision digital service.
New advertisers for the IPG on Cablevision include AMC to promote “Mad Men” episodes, FX to pitch “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “The Shield” and Fox to tout “The Fringe.”
In the coming weeks, Cablevision expects to implement advertising deals for movie studios to promote films that will be carried on the operator’s VOD service. The ads look like banner ads on the guide. When clicked on, they take users to a linear channel or a VOD order page, for instance.
Norwalk, Conn.-based Media Storm is a media planning and buying agency that has inked many IPG deals with operators including Cablevision and Comcast. “It is the last-stop opportunity before making a decision,” said Craig Woerz, managing partner at Media Storm. “We want to be there to intercept them and say, ‘Here is this brand new movie on-demand, click now.’”
The ads are proving to be effective so far. He said the buy rates jump by 30% to 50% or more when they run, compared to normal buy rates for VOD movies.
But IPG advertising could use some fine-tuning to improve its effectiveness. Mr. Woerz said he’d like to be able to include key art from movies in the IPG itself. He also would like specific data on click-through rates for the banner ads, rather than just cobbling together assumptions based on buy-rate increases.
Another area for improvement is better linkage between the IPG and VOD, said Mitch Oscar, executive VP of televisual applications at Media agency MPG.
“One thing they could do is have an advertisement that clicks onto video directly or links to a microsite,” he suggested. “Or what if they had spaces for your hi-def channels and there were links in the program description to go to a microsite or a Web site?”
The next evolution in IPG ads will be to roll out more video-based ads, said Corey Ferengul, executive VP of marketing at Macrovision, the parent company of dominant IPG maker TV Guide. “That could be a banner on the screen to click into a video or clip. It could take you to a clip of an auto commercial or a sample of a show.”
TV Guide is testing the video ads with a handful of operators. “This is an area that is growing and expanding because there are so many more choices for consumers and both advertisers and networks are looking to reach consumers,” Mr. Ferengul said.
Beyond video ads, Macrovision will look to incorporate more interactivity into IPG ads and to include user reviews on TV programs.
Some marketers have leaned on the IPG for non-TV goods. Brightline ITV has placed ads for deodorant maker Axe on the DirecTV IPG, taking viewers to a micro-channel about Axe, said Rob Aksman, creative director with Brightline ITV, a marketing specialist firm focusing on advanced advertising. “We have done banner and barker and on-demand guides, and from my perspective this is the future of channel surfing,” he said.
The IPG is a growing advertising opportunity because advertisers increasingly crave interactivity and the guide enables that, said Tara Walpert, president of advanced advertising technology firm Visible World.

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