Addressable ad trials start up

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AT&T Broadband, the nation's largest cable company, this week kicks off a long-awaited addressable advertising trial that will enable participating marketers to target consumers more efficiently. The AT&T Corp. company's six-month technology trial was delayed twice due to engineering and software issues-it was slated to launch in April, and then in September.

The trial, targeting 25,000 households in Aurora, Co., a suburban Denver community near the headquarters of AT&T Broadband, uses SpotOn, a targeted advertising system developed by Digital ADCO's ACTV. Digital ADCO is a joint venture of Motorola Corp., OpenTV and ACTV. The trial's first advertiser is General Motors Corp., which will use Chevrolet brand advertising during the trial.

An AT&T Broadband spokeswoman declined to name participating advertisers, but earlier this year, the company and ACTV were in talks with marketers including Campbell Soup Co., Delta Air Lines, Ford Motor Co., Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods and Procter & Gamble Co.

While the SpotOn system is sophisticated enough to allow consumers to opt-in to promotions, request information and other offers via their TV remote control, AT&T Broadband's initial use of the technology during the trial is far more basic. In fact, the trial will be transparent to consumers with no opt-in or click-on mechanisms. The consumer targeting occurs on the back-end, with AT&T providing advertisers with generalized demographic and psychographic data on households. For example, households with two or more kids under the age of 18 could be targeted with a GM SUV commercial. Another household might be targeted with ads for pick-up trucks. AT&T Broadband likely will try more advanced forms of addressable advertising in subsequent phases of the trial.

A GM spokesman said the trial will enable GM to better understand the viewing patterns of various demographic groups.

AT&T Broadband is a hot property-AOL Time Warner, Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications are each expected to formally submit bids to acquire the company this week. Microsoft Corp. also is expected to make a $3 or $4 billion investment in the company. Comcast's $44 billion bid for the cable giant was rejected in July, but it plans a new bid this week.

Contributing: Jean Halliday

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