NEXT CENTURY READIES TEST OF ADDRESSABLE ADVERTISING: MARKETERS EACH TO PAY $95,000 FOR 1-YEAR TRIAL

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Next Century Media, a new-media consultancy, is planning a yearlong test of addressable advertising to begin this fall, and is soliciting agency media planners to sign up for the test.

This could be the first significant action on addressable and interactive TV spots, the subject of a lot of hype and talk over the past year.

TEST ADS DEBATED

Interactive ads, which would allow the viewer to respond to the commercial and request more information during viewing, is one of the ad ideas being promoted by John Malone, chairman-CEO of cable TV giant Tele-Communications Inc.

Ted Livingston, senior consultant-marketing and sales for Next Century, Woodstock, N.Y., said addressable advertising-commercials tailored and delivered to specific types of households-will be the first developed.

"If Malone and others expect support [for] this [digital] platform, they are going to be much better served if they focus on applications that help advertisers target consumers rather than those requiring consumers to interact with advertising," Mr. Livingston said. "That's not something consumers really want to do much of-witness the fact that only 1% of banners on the Internet actually get clicked on."

Next Century's test of addressable advertising will find cable operator MediaOne providing access to 3,000 homes in the Detroit-area communities of Plymouth, Canton and Northville. These cities tend to be upper middle class and more white collar than blue collar, said Mr. Livingston.

Two-thirds of the total number of homes in the test will get addressable ads; the remaining 1,000 households will comprise the control group.

Cost for the year-long test is $95,000 per advertiser.

ZIP CODE TARGETING

Currently, a number of cable operators allow advertisers to target specific commercials to designated ZIP codes. With the arrival of digital TV, the technology will be available to target commercials to specific households on a wide-scale basis.

"We will be inserting the commercials during the local avails given the cable operator by the national cable networks," Mr. Livingston said.

Up to five different messages can be sent out during each of the commercial breaks.

"If [advertisers] want young families with a baby, we'll try and find them," Mr. Livingston says. "If [advertisers] want a household with a sport-utility vehicle, we'll try and find that. Each advertiser can have five different spots sent out, or that particular avail could be filled by five separate advertisers. Or a mix of the two."

Next Century will use data from Mediamark Research Inc. to gather information about various households, augmented with other databases.

LOOKING FOR ADVERTISERS

"We're looking to recruit 15 advertisers," said Mr. Livingston. Each advertiser will get a minimum of 1,000 gross ratings points, and access to diagnostic research. "The heavy research component of the test will measure how effectively the message is being delivered to the advertiser's target home."

"Addressable and interactive advertising are definitely the wave of the future," said Bill Croasdale, president of national broadcast for Western International Media, Los Angeles.

He offered two caveats, however-the technology must work and, with addressable advertising, the databases used to target must be accurate.

Denver-based Your Choice TV, which resells TV shows that have already aired to customers on demand, also is planning a test of addressable advertising later this year.

No details were available at deadline.

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