The firm recently launched a trial in several markets, including New York, of a software program called "Intellispot" that can create and deliver TV ads that change their messages to suit the interests of the viewing audience.
"This is like direct mail, different messages for different segments," says Seth Haberman, CEO of Visible World, New York. "It customizes ads to neighborhood and to home, it's geographic and psychographic targeting of ad messages."
The company just signed a deal with New York Interconnect, a cable sales partnership between Comcast and Cablevision that covers 35 cable networks in the New York DMA. The interconnect will roll out Intellispots to the area's estimated 3.5 million households this week for advertisers such as auto dealers, travel companies and wireless providers.
Visible World also recently received an infusion of $8 million in funding cash from Reuters Venture Capital. Other stakeholders in the company include WPP Group, Grey Global Group's Grey Ventures and Comcast Interactive Capital, a venture capital unit of Comcast that has investments in 60 early stage technology companies.
"We invest in technology companies that will be the next generation of services Comcast wants to offer," says Sam Schwartz, managing director, Comcast Interactive Capital, also a new Visible World investor, taking a stake within the last three months. "Visible World is a key piece of technology that will allow us to target advertising in ways that traditional broadcast networks can't."
Last month, Comcast began rolling out Adtag and Adcopy, another set of new addressable advertising technologies that are being licensed from Los Angeles-area interconnect Adlink, which developed them. Adtag automatically changes advertiser location and contact information at the end of direct response ads depending on where the ad is aired and Adcopy runs ads in appropriate DMAs. For example, Adcopy will run an SUV ad in the suburbs and a sports model in a zip code with a high concentration of single residents.
Intellispots go one step further, changing creative elements of a single ad, such as the music, images and the message, depending on the target. For example: Intellispot has about 65 variations of an ad for Bermuda Travel. The spot seen in New York City's Lower East Side will feature hip music and images of singles on vacation, while the ad airing in New Jersey suburbs will deliver light music over a pitch for family vacations.
Schwartz says intellispots will complement Adtag and Adcopy. "Visible World will actually be the engine that Adtag and Adcopy will be rolled out on if the trials work out OK."
Some observers regard technologies such as Intellispots and the Adlink systems as part of a trend toward more accountability in advertising.
"Today you have advertisers who are more [return-on-investment] focused," says Lance P. Maerov, senior VP, Grey Ventures. "If they are spending more for a shrinking television audience then the ads have to be more effective. Visible World allows advertisers the flexibility to directly target the consumer. "
In a rare display of cooperation, Grey Ventures sits on the board of directors of Visible World along with archrival WPP Group, through its media buying agency MindShare.
"There are a lot of people out there who talk about addressability in advertising," says Irwin Gotlieb, CEO of MindShare's parent unit Group M. "But nobody stops to think, who's going to shoot the 400 different commercials you need for each audience? Visible World can assemble ads out of components in real time and distribute them."
So far, Intellispots are creatively simple, direct response ads. Is there a future for the technology in the creatively complex world of big brand campaigns? Perhaps, says Gotlieb. "We really don't know how to use a lot of this stuff yet. But they do have the capability and we can start finding out."