Interactive Commercials Show Strong Early Results

Cablevision's Optimum Select Pleases Marketers Including Colgate-Palmolive, Benjamin Moore

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- After years of one-off tests, single-market trials and several false starts, interactive TV advertising finally achieved scale this fall when Cablevision became the first cable operator to offer the technology across its full footprint of 3.1 million subscribers in the New York, Connecticut and New Jersey area.

Benjamin Moore interactive adEnlarge
Benjamin Moore's Cablevision campaign yielded more than 25,000 requests for product samples during the crucial early-fall time period.

The interactive ad product, Optimum Select, attracted launch advertisers including Gillette, Benjamin Moore, retailer Century 21, Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive Co. Each marketer signed up for two-week flights in which viewers could click on their remote controls to receive more information, product samples or gift certificates from the advertisers. But the ads weren't customized or addressed to certain viewer demographics or household incomes, so the only targeting had to come from strategic buys on certain cable networks.

The interactive spots worked well anyway, participants now say. Responses were strong enough that the campaigns were taken off the air after an average of half their scheduled runs after advertisers were caught low on promotional inventory, according to Cablevision and marketers.

For Benjamin Moore paints, the Cablevision campaign yielded more than 25,000* requests for product samples during the crucial early fall time period, the last time of the year most consumers in the Northeast are in the market for home renovation materials until the spring. Because the product samples had to be redeemed in stores, Dan Calkins, a general manager for Benjamin Moore, said the company was able to quantify the campaign's impact on store traffic.

"We had difficulties keeping up with the demand and suspended it for a few days to get some more resources involved," Mr. Calkins said. "It's enough of an indication directionally that we'll continue to do more of this going forward."

Colgate-Palmolive saw similar results from its test, converting 70% of the consumers who requested more information into actual recipients of the product giveaway. Optimum Select campaigns, on average, got 40% of the people who pressed buttons on their remotes to complete requests for information or other actions.

For local advertisers like Mount Everest Ski & Snowboard Shop in Westwood, N.J., Optimum Select showed that interactive TV can get people through the door, said Bob McGarry, the store's manager. The ski supplies store offered free lift tickets and a free tune-up for ski or snowboard equipment, to be redeemed in-person.

"This is something that holds the customer's attention, gives them the opportunity to get something for free and opens another door for return business because they're actually coming into the store," Mr. McGarry said.

Web-like metrics from TV
The campaigns' results suggest that TV can in fact deliver web-like metrics and interactive opportunities -- and that consumers are willing to use their TVs like computers.

"We've always been saying television is the most powerful form of advertising, but what's taken some of the luster off of that is the rich data and metrics of the web that was never available on television until now," said David Kline, president of Cablevision's ad sales unit Rainbow Advertising Sales Corporation. "When you mix those with the power and impact of TV, advertisers like that and are willing to pay more for that."

"At the moment we don't have the ability to customize too much to ask specific types of consumers if they're interested in this kind of product, so any people who did that literally did it out of genuine interest," he added.

Cablevision didn't put much marketing resources behind Optimum Select to inform viewers of the new opportunity. It ran a few educational 30-second spots in the weeks leading up to the interactive commercials' arrival, then teaser ads before interactive spots themselves to remind viewers they could request coupons and product samples.

Mr. Kline said hundreds of Optimum Select campaigns are in the works for 2010. Other cable operators like Comcast and Time Warner Cable remain cagey on plans for interactive ad opportunities across their full footprints.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said Benjamin Moore received 2,500 requests via its Cablevision ad.

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