Update TV Spots -- Even After They're Recorded

BlackArrow Aims to Place Relevant Ads in DVR, VOD and Broadband Programs

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At a time when consumers can use emerging technology to order up a fresh episode of "Heroes" or "Grey's Anatomy" days after it first aired, it's no wonder marketers are afraid of serving up ads that will be out of date. Now a number of technology companies and private investors are backing a company that aims to help advertisers grapple with the problem of placing relevant ads when consumers are the ones choosing the day and time the programs they watch are being seen.
Dean Denhart, BlackArrow's president-CEO
Dean Denhart, BlackArrow's president-CEO

Comcast Corp., Cisco Systems and Intel Corp. have invested in a San Mateo, Calif., company called BlackArrow that wants to help marketers place their ads in video-on-demand programming, playbacks on DVR and in broadband video.

"When a viewer is controlling what they are watching, we can be there to serve them the ad that is best targeted to them," said Courtenay Harry, BlackArrow's VP-advertising business development.

Figuring out how to dole out relevant advertising to viewers who watch programs days after they air has become a source of worry for certain marketers. Fretting was evident in the early days of this year's broadcast upfront. While buyers and sellers were ready to agree that ad deals would be founded on viewing that included people who saw programs as much as three days after they aired, marketers with time-sensitive pitches, including movie studios and retailers, initially balked.

Gathering interest
Being able to tweak ads on the fly or insert them flexibly are ideas that are gaining steam. Visible World, a New York company, in June struck a deal with Viacom's MTV Networks that would give marketers the ability to update commercials. AllState and Ogilvy North America recently tested whether placing different kinds of ads into video-on-demand selections would help spark better consumer response.

News Corp.'s Fox network is also interested in finding an answer. The network has a patent pending on technology that will allow for the digital insertion of ads and promos on Fox network and cable programs that people watch days later on a DVR. The agreement on commercial ratings in this year's upfront has made the need to progress on the effort immediate, said a Fox spokeswoman, though the network remains interested in the idea.

BlackArrow hopes it can add to the discussion by taking on any kind of video environment, whether online or via the cable set-top box (DVR playback would follow ). The company already is able to place ads online and has been in talks with different cable operators about using its technology for VOD selections, said Dean Denhart, a former Knight Ridder executive who is now BlackArrow's president-CEO.

BlackArrow has some challenges ahead. "Ad-insertion software is a nascent market right now that has potential, but only if the cable operators aggressively deploy dynamic ad-insertion hardware," said Brian Wieser, senior VP-director, industry analysis, at Interpublic Group's Magna Global.
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