CABLE'S MASS CUSTOMIZATION A HIT WITH DEALERS: SERVICES LIKE ADLINK ADD FLEXIBILITY TO MICROMARKETING

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Claiming "mass customization" is becoming a routine concept in advertising, cable TV ad-customizing pioneer Adlink is looking to go to the next level.

It's been a decade since Adlink-owned by the major Los Angeles area cable TV MSOs-began promoting its system allowing advertisers to target cable TV commercials on a market-by-market basis with just one spot tape.

Initial acceptance was slow, but in the last year Adlink's momentum has picked up significantly.

Although Adlink was among the first, about 50 other companies now provide similar services.

"We measure size in terms of subscribers," says Joe Ostrow, president-CEO of Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, adding that Adlink is the model against which most interconnect companies compare themselves.

Adlink now covers all 3.1 million cable households in the Los Angeles area, and 62% of the total viewers in the market.

300 ADVERTISERS

The company inserts commercials on cable networks including ESPN, A&E, MTV, CNN, Nickelodeon. More than 300 national advertisers, including General Motors Corp., Kraft Foods, McDonald's Corp., Mercedes-Benz of North America and Walt Disney Co., use Adlink to reach prospective customers with targeted cable TV commercials.

This month, Adlink will insert commercials on 30 different cable networks, with plans to reach 40 in the first quarter of 2000.

Profits are increasing. Last year, Adlink raked in $83 million in gross revenue versus $62 million in 1997. Before Adlink, advertisers who wanted to run spots on cable TV in Los Angeles were forced to deal with systems on an individual basis, each doing its own billing, with its own format and policies.

"We're one-stop shopping," says Vicki Lins, Adlink's director of marketing, who says the company's proprietary products Adcopy and Adtag are additional pluses for advertisers.

CAR CONNECTION

"Adcopy allows automotive manufacturers to run minivan and sports car ads at the same time, both targeted to different consumers, on different systems," says Ms. Lins. "If those two brands are sharing buys, then it saves them money to cover the Los Angeles market."

Gary Van Zandt, regional account director for 24 Mercedes-Benz dealers, says while buying TV in Los Angeles is expensive, Adlink makes it affordable.

"We spend $10 million a year (overall) and do about $500,000 with Adlink," he says. It "goes further because we get cable frequency matched up with broadcast

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