Madison & Vine: TiVo inks pacts for long-form TV ads

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TiVo, the commercial-zapping personal TV service consumers love but that sends chills down the spines of Madison Avenue executives, is quietly luring marketers to experiment with extended-form ads and promotions. The aim is to get viewers to actually choose to view ad content by making it as compelling as the programming.

Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Entertainment and Real Networks today debut what TiVo refers to as "showcases" of unique content to its 420,000 subscribers. The showcases, which offer at least 10 minutes of digital video and audio on the TiVo service, give advertisers the ability to create content packages that go well beyond a 30-second TV spot.

TiVo's advertainment concept is only the latest in a series of seismic shifts pulling Madison Avenue into the Hollywood orbit, underscoring that advertising is in a deep identity crisis. Though agencies have long sought product and plot placements for marketers, they've aggressively stepped up relationships with content creators as the traditional TV spot loses its punch.

"This is important because television as we know it is going to die in the next five years," said Jim Nail, senior analyst, Internet media, Forrester Research. "Instead of being on a network schedule, it's going to become demand-driven. Consumers will either use a TiVo box, or this capability will be supplied by cable and satellite TV companies. Consumers will be able to watch what they want when they want it, and this will clearly change how they relate to advertisers.

"Does anyone care about 420,000 subscribers?" he added. "Probably not. Should companies begin to think about what an advertisement is? Emphatically, yes."

Sony Pictures is offering a 90-second trailer for the movie "Mr. Deeds," opening June 28 and starring comedian Adam Sandler, and three different movie excerpts for a total of 10 minutes.

"We know from studies that the PVR [personal video recorder] is a wonderful application that's compelling to the consumer. ... We want to learn ways to exploit the PVR and find compelling applications for our advertisers," said Mitch Oscar, senior VP-director of media futures for Universal McCann.

Sony Pictures Entertainment is a client of the Interpublic Group of Cos.' unit. Interpublic itself is reportedly seeking to acquire a talent and a literary agency.

subscriber packages

Real Networks is offering TiVo subscribers a taste of its Major League Baseball package to drive signups for its Real One premium service. The MLB package on Real One offers condensed 20-minute versions of games. TiVo subscribers will see three minutes of Real's 20-minute game and will be offered a 14-day free trial.

"You have 10 minutes to engage with the viewer," said Jim Monroe, executive producer, TiVo. "You don't have to produce a spot that has to break through the commercial clutter. Viewers have opted to see this stuff." TiVo is developing a rate plan for the packages; executives would not comment on rates. A recently concluded three-week program with Best Buy Co. offered TiVo subscribers 13 minutes of exclusive video product vignettes, interviews with singer Sheryl Crow, star of the retailer's national ad campaign, and a CD giveaway. The showcase gave Best Buy a chance to re-purpose advertising created by BBA, the Minneapolis, Minn.-based retailer's in-house agency, and to drive interest in hot, new gadgets. Preliminary data show more than 50% of TiVo subscribers accessed the retailer's showcase, spending an average of six minutes, according to Mollie Weston, manager of production, BBA.

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