Direct-Response Shop to Offer Service That Measures, Well, Everything

Backchannelmedia Offers a Free Glimpse of a Highly Targeted Future

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CINCINNATI (AdAge.com) -- A small Boston direct-response media agency with big ambitions to change the way TV is bought and sold is firing the first shot in its planned revolution -- a website that serves up a bottomless bowl of free mind candy for media planners, buyers, marketers and even consumers.
DRTV Research has the potential to let media planners and buyers put together some of the most outrageously targeted plans and buys ever by finding thinly sliced content segments such as spot availability on archery or kayaking shows.
DRTV Research has the potential to let media planners and buyers put together some of the most outrageously targeted plans and buys ever by finding thinly sliced content segments such as spot availability on archery or kayaking shows.

Backchannelmedia.com is offering a service, DRTV Research, which goes live tomorrow, that will give both media professionals and consumers the ability to search, slice and dice all manner of data and listings: demographic data for every designated metropolitan area (DMA); program data for every broadcast, cable, satellite, video-on-demand and digital TV channel, including hundreds that few people know exist and never appear in a Nielsen Media Research report; airtimes for every TV program running in the U.S. each week; and listings and total airings of every paid program running in the U.S. each week.

Bridging DR and general market
In a Web 2.0 strategy often deployed for consumers but more rarely in the pay-to-play business-to-business space, the agency is offering DRTV Research for free. Part of the idea, said Michael Kokernak, co-CEO of Backchannelmedia, is to bridge the chasm that long has separated direct-response TV and general advertising.

He's hoping to get media planners, buyers and marketers accustomed to using the web interface developed for DRTV Research, which Backchannelmedia hopes to monetize as it adds new services in months and years ahead. The planned services include systems to use direct-response data to help value general media buys, and systems for planning and buying based on highly detailed demographic data and through individually addressable cable TV systems.

Backchannelmedia, which already sells Stars media tracking and accounting software for DRTV and home-shopping clients, also looks to expand eventually to serve general-media clients, too.

Really, really targeted media plans
As such, it's a catalog for the "long tail" of U.S. TV programming. DRTV Research has the potential to let media planners and buyers put together some of the most outrageously targeted plans and buys ever by finding thinly sliced content segments such as spot availability on archery or kayaking shows.

The site also allows visitors to search all programs by title or actor. So they can find, for example, all 7,791 times and places that George Clooney appears on the tube this week. Or which of the 6,829 airings of "CSI" variants they'd like to watch.

Potentially, Mr. Kokernak noted, advertisers could target ads to run in programs with specific actors. So, should Budweiser want to air ads featuring its favorite voice-over artist while he's on the tube, the brand has 7,791 options. Or it can pare the list down to DMAs with the highest proportion of women to men. (For that matter, he added, should Mr. Clooney want to ensure he's not getting shortchanged on his residuals, he now knows where to look, or have his auditors look.)

Within the decade
But the main idea is to create a community around using a data-processing tool that Mr. Kokernak said "mirrors the way we think planning and media buying will work in the future."

One day, possibly within a decade, Mr. Kokernak predicts it will be possible to buy detailed media plans developed using the DRTV Research platform at the click of a button.

He said he's been developing the system over the past 10 years, working often seven days a week, with an investment over the past six years since Backchannelmedia was incorporated that he estimates at $4 million using the work of about 100 people over time.

"We feel it's very important, in the environment of today with the confusion over Nielsen commercial minute ratings, that media buyers are given alternatives to how they look at content," he said.

Quell industry arguments
Mr. Kokernak sees broader adoption of direct-response elements and analytics by general marketers as a wave of the future that will moot industry hot topics such as engagement and commercial ratings. That's because direct response in various forms can provide, at least in relative terms and through estimates, measures of how many people are watching and how much they're engaging with content.

"I think certainly direct response is going to become more important in advertising," said media consultant Erwin Ephron. "It's the ultimate in accountability. ... It's becoming much more mainstream, and taking different forms. ... What it requires when done right is a very advanced data-processing system, and that's where Backchannel comes in."
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