The London agency and 10 marketers will get exclusive rights to test interactive spots for free.
"The experiment will allow us to research how people use advertisements," said Andrew Curry, manager of interactive TV at Videotron, the U.K. subsidiary of Montreal's Groupe Videotron. "If you look at early TV commercials, they were very similar to magazine and newspaper ads. It took a while for the industry to realize that TV was a different medium. We now have an opportunity to learn about some of the new creative possibilities."
The test will run for one month. Chiat's creative team will design and produce interactive ads to be incorporated into Videotron's Interactive Channel.
Interactive Channel viewers can use their remote control to change the camera angle during sporting events and select news stories during newscasts. Groupe Videotron offers a similar service to some 200,000 cable households in Quebec.
The experiment will be limited to Videotron's London franchise of about 65,000 cable homes. Mr. Curry said Videotron expects to expand to 100,000 homes early next year.
"For the first time ever, an advertising agency is going to completely take over a TV channel," said John Crowley, director of media communications at Chiat/Day, who is coordinating the experiment. He is also commissioning TV programs for the trial period.
"We are creating partnerships with broadcasters and independent production companies in the U.S. and U.K. to make original programs specifically for us or to supply existing ones."
Europe lags behind the U.S. in interactive media, and cable TV is still underdeveloped in the U.K. But the full participation of advertisers in this venture is expected to break new ground.
Chiat declined to reveal the identity of advertisers taking part because some are clients and others are handled by other agencies. The commercials will cover a broad cross-section of products.
"Any advertiser interested can only do so through us," Mr. Crowley said, adding that other agencies will be involved later in the project.
Chiat's London clients include Midland Bank, Coca-Cola Co. and the U.K. Nickelodeon cable network. Coca-Cola has tested interactive spots with Videotron in Quebec, as have Ford Motor Co. and Labatt Breweries of Canada.
Videotron offers a 30-channel cable TV service in the U.K. It is supplying its technology to other interactive ventures such as Interactive London News Network, the U.K.'s first daily interactive news service operated by commercial network ITV. But this service does not include interactive advertising.
The Chiat deal comes a year after Ogilvy & Mather created two basic interactive advertisements for Ford's new world car, the Mondeo, on the Interactive Channel.
"The Ford commercial was really a technical test. We were using interactive technology to do more to [traditional] advertising," Mr. Curry said. The Chiat/Day experiment will explore other creative possibilities.