Do Over: Canoe Ventures Rethinks First Addressable TV Plan

Scraps First Effort As Unworkable; Aims for Interactive Ads in Fourth Quarter

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NEW YORK ( -- Canoe Ventures sprung a leak this week when its first product, Community Addressable Messaging, or CAM, was scrapped after a few initial tests. But the consortium of the top six cable operators is not giving up on advanced TV advertising, and is prepping a national interactive-advertising product to roll out in the fourth quarter of 2009.

David Verklin
David Verklin
Dana Runnells, a Canoe spokeswoman, said the upcoming interactive product will be limited to Canoe's participating cable operators in its first iteration.

However, Canoe is open to working with other partners, such as satellite operators, to expand its footprint for future products.

"Although Canoe's early products are built on cable's infrastructure, the company is in the business of making TV a more robust platform for everyone," she said. "We expect to grow and evolve with the media landscape and eventually reach out to other video providers -- look for ways we all can cooperate in the best interest of programmers and viewers."

Ms. Runnells said the first iteration of CAM failed to get off the ground due to technical difficulties. "It required lengthy, advanced scheduling of advertising pods and didn't allow for changes, so timing was critical for insertion of national variable ads into local operator systems."

The product has not been abandoned, but no launch date has been set for the next variation. Canoe CEO David Verklin recently told Multichannel News, "We were trying to use 20th-century technology to enable a 21st-century, advanced advertising product."

Getting networks to sign up for CAM was also a challenge, as their involvement ultimately determined Canoe's national deployment. Rainbow Media's AMC was the only network named in a national test, using inventory in the early-morning hours on weekends that only reached 3 million homes, or 70 cable "zones." Mr. Verklin has said that Canoe's goal is to eventually get down to household addressability, because cable zones such as Manhattan's Upper West Side and Harlem have such disparate demographics that advertising wouldn't be relevant to all residents.

Despite Canoe's initial technical setbacks, some major advanced-TV players don't see it as a failure. "They attempted to bring to market a nationally scaled product offering, and before it launched they figured out it wouldn't work. [Mr. Verklin] just saved me a lot of effort, to find out it doesn't work before launching, and I thank him for that," said Tracey Scheppach, senior VP-video innovation director for Starcom USA, an agency that has helped pioneer advanced-advertising tests in markets such as Huntsville, Ala., and Brooklyn, N.Y. "The old way we would've done it is, working with one cable operator at a time, slowly try to stitch things together, find it would work in one market, and eventually hit a brick wall and find out it doesn't scale. We want to work with products on national inventory, so from my point of view, Canoe's working."

Canoe's hiatus will also draw more attention to Cablevision's first nationally scaleable dynamic ad insertion product on video on demand, rolling out in July with advertisers such as Disney Parks, U.S. Navy and Newsday onboard as initial clients. The marketers will be able to place 15- or 30-second pre-roll spots before select VOD content, and insert and change the creative messages in less than 24 hours.

Craig Woerz, managing partner for Media Storm, a media agency that specializes in TV and movie clients, said initiatives such as Canoe and dynamic ad insertion help eliminate the main barrier for agencies looking to find more relevant windows in which to air timely campaigns such as movies and retail sales. "What we love about dynamic ad insertion is the ability to keep the message as fresh as the on-demand content," he said. "As more clients start to come into the fold, they really will start to make [advanced TV] a true consideration just like any other vehicle."

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