At the NCTA

Marketers Want Cable to Move Faster on Addressable, VOD Projects

Project Canoe CEO to Be Named June 1

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- If Deborah Wahl Meyer, chief marketing officer of Chrysler, seemed impatient during her keynote speech today at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association Cable Show in New Orleans, it's understandable. Addressable advertising, the industry game-changer marketers such as Chrysler have been asking the operators to create for them for years, is still nowhere near wide deployment.
Deborah Wahl Meyer
Deborah Wahl Meyer Credit: Carlos Osorio

"We want to be able to deliver one message to a married 55-year-old man watching 'Battlestar Galactica' and a very different one to a 25-year-old single woman watching the same show the next block over," Ms. Wahl Meyer said. "You have all the wires that go straight into those homes. So how can we then work together to develop addressable advertising?"

Verklin a no-show
Ms. Wahl Meyer's keynote was originally scheduled to be followed by a panel that included David Verklin, former CEO of Aegis Media Americas, who was widely reported to have left Aegis last month to lead the cable industry's biggest play for addressable advertising, colloquially Cable Giants Focus on VOD Advertising Roadblocks known as Project Canoe. But Mr. Verklin was a no-show, leaving NCTA without a single needle-moving announcement for an industry that could have used some actionable news. But Stephen Burke, chief operating officer of Comcast, said a CEO has been hired, and will be announced June 1.

Last year's biggest news, a VOD deal between Cox Communications and Disney's media networks called My Prime Time, was heralded a success by both ESPN President George Bodenheimer and Cox CEO Pat Esser this week.

But the VOD experiment, which disabled fast-forwarding of ads during new on-demand episodes of select ABC, Disney and ESPN prime-time programs, is still only available in one market, Orange County, Calif. Mr. Esser said 25% of the subscribers who participated in the experiment said they watched shows on the VOD service they never would have watched live on broadcast prime, with an additional 25% saying they will now watch the shows on live TV after being introduced to them through My Prime Time.

Mr. Bodenheimer said ESPN has been in active conversations with the other cable operators, including Time Warner, which offers similar VOD features like "Start Over" and "Look Back." But considering these same conversations haven't progressed much from this time last year, it's clear that the industry's Project Canoe still has a long way to paddle.

CEO announcement due
Canoe, the as-yet-unnamed cable consortium, is a loose organization of the top executives from Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications, among others, designed to help advertisers buy video on-demand across a network of operators using a standardized metrics system and have a wider footprint to develop addressable ad campaigns. The announcement of a CEO, whether it was Mr. Verklin or not, would have accelerated the organization of a group that has been without a point person thus far.

Having a take-charge leader like Mr. Verklin on board could juice up the interest from the major cable entertainment groups, which still approach the VOD monetization space with skepticism. Judy McGrath, CEO of MTV Networks, said her company has used its new $500 million advertising partnership with Microsoft to jointly figure out new ad models together, but has yet to see anyone in the cable industry "step in and take a dominant position."

Glenn Britt, CEO of Time Warner Cable, added, "Fundamentally, a lot of what we're trying to do is bring the internet to TV and put that measurement across the entire cable industry."

Internet-like TV metrics are precisely what marketers like Ms. Wahl Meyer are searching for when recession-related budget cuts force marketers to get the most direct results from their ad spend as possible. Ms. Wahl Meyer said Chrysler has spent more online because of the advanced options for creative and demographic targeting.

"Our issue is if you can keep proving your cause and effect, you don't have to cut the budget. What we're doing on the web right now, which is why the dollars are going there, is because there's more justification to protect those budgets," she said. "I can show how a web ad hits all the way down to a sale."
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