Dish, NBCU Test Interactive Ads on DVRs

Will Be Available to 14 Million Subscribers

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NEW ORLEANS (AdAge.com) -- As the cable industry struggles to scale its addressable advertising solutions for advertisers solutions for advertisers, NBC Universal is turning to cable's biggest competitors, the satellite pay-TV providers, for an innovative pact in interactive-TV advertising.
A recent campaign from Shell gave viewers the option to access a short film, 'Clearing the Air' (bottom), which promoted Shell's energy and green-marketing efforts by clicking on an 'interactive trigger' (top).
A recent campaign from Shell gave viewers the option to access a short film, 'Clearing the Air' (bottom), which promoted Shell's energy and green-marketing efforts by clicking on an 'interactive trigger' (top).

NBCU and Dish Network announced a partnership yesterday that would allow any Dish Network subscribers who own a digital video recorder to access more information from advertisers that air commercials on any of NBCU's 14 broadcast and cable networks and 10 owned-and-operated local stations.

Michael Finn, VP-ad sales for Dish Network, said the new partnership marks the first time a TV distributor has used the Dish platform to scale interactive capabilities across its 14 million-home subscriber base. Dish has created more than 200 interactive platforms for advertisers in the past.

Understanding and adapting
"Our agreement with Dish Network is part of NBCU's ongoing initiative to make TV advertising more effective and provide better accountability for our clients' media investments," Mike Pilot, president-sales and marketing for NBC Universal, said in a statement. "With this deal, we're extending our ability to provide request-for-information capability to any commercial on any NBCU network -- an important step and a unique capability in the market as we work with our clients to better understand and adapt to the new ways consumers are watching TV."

Through the Dish platform, viewers can click on "interactive triggers" that will allow them to access more information on an advertiser's product or even purchase the product or service directly from the platform. A recent campaign from Shell gas, for example, gave viewers the option to access a short film, "Clearing the Air," which promoted Shell's energy and green-marketing efforts. Once they watched the clip, viewers could return watching their DVR-ed program exactly where they left off.

The Dish deal marks NBCU's second i-TV partnership, following a similar deal last November to use Tivo's StopWatch ratings, which measures the recorded viewing of shows and commercials. The agreement allowed NBCU to place Tivo's Record Tags technology during ads, with interactive components akin to Dish's capabilities.

Mr. Finn, for one, is all for broadcasters such as NBCU using the Dish platform to scale their broader i-TV efforts, much like the way the cable operators have formed Project Canoe to aggregate video on-demand advertising.

Consistency needed
"There has to be some consistency when aggregating these platforms. We want NBC to do deals with all the operators. We have similar capabilities and similar data, and we can deliver to an advertiser basically the same kind of metrics. NBC is looking down the road at the future of TV advertising, and we've now given them another solution to help them get there," Mr. Finn said.

Mr. Finn said click-through rates on i-TV ads vary, but have worked best for automotive marketers, who use the technology to generate leads and send customers brochures on target vehicles.

"We're only as effective as an advertiser's message is," he said. "If the reason for clicking is not compelling, the click-through rate could not be that efficient." Dish can also use set-top box data to read a viewer's ZIP code and direct him to where the nearest dealer or retailer is in his area.
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