General Electric Co. and General Motors Corp. are the first two advertisers to launch what's been called a telescoping ad, where a 30-second spot is the portal for a longer-form ad. A graphic overlay on the spot instructs viewers to push a button on their remote to be taken to a longer-form ad, which resides on a video-on-demand channel. Similar efforts from American Express and Warner Bros. will debut shortly.
Comparable to Google's AdSense
Joan Gillman, Time Warner Cable's president-media sales, said the technology will create functionality not unlike Google's AdSense product. "The technology is really comparable and even more sophisticated because of the ability to geo-target and buy market by market," she said.
Ms. Gillman wouldn't comment on pricing but said when BSkyB rolled out similar technology in the U.K., it charged a 15% to 20% premium on the 20-second spot, plus a per-lead and per-click charge. She said Time Warner Cable initially is able to do the interactive advertising with only a limited number of clients due to the time- and labor-intensive nature of the deals; the four clients selected, she said, are some of Time Warner Cable's largest.
Time Warner Cable has talked publicly about bringing interactive advertising to Manhattan -- a major media and advertising center for the U.S. -- since last spring. Most in the iTV community hope this will be a turning point for the technology, and that allowing agency and media execs to experiment with it will drive interest among advertisers.
In addition to telescoping, advertisers can use ads as direct-response vehicles by asking viewers to vote or request a brochure or call a phone number.
Better measure of ad effectiveness
ITV's promise, however, is it offers a better measure of ad effectiveness. "Advertisers can get a view, in our world at least, of how many set-top boxes are tuned to that ad environment when the ad airs," Ms. Gillman said. "It's a view by household. And if someone clicks, you have a click event." The numbers are anonymous and aggregated but more accurate than the current reporting on TV viewing from Nielsen Media Research.
Right now, Time Warner Cable can geo-target by zone, which in New York means by borough. Eventually, advertisers will be able to target by household, Ms. Gillman said. And that has advertisers excited.
"We like to know the accountability, and we like to know the interactivity," said Mitch Oscar, exec VP- Carat Digital, who is soon embarking on a similar trial with Chase in which viewers would be sent to a longer form ad or a microsite. "We also like the addressability."
Added Bonnie Taffer, VP-alliances and content at American Express, in an e-mail: "Our affluent card members are the early adaptors of this type of new technology, so when they hit that button for more information linked to our advertising spots, they will see interesting and new content, as well as relevant offers, all aimed to entertain while showcasing our card member benefits."