Carat convenes iTV think tank

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Media agency Carat USA has created a think tank to brainstorm the next-generation of interactive-TV-ad models before they hit the small screen.

The group, hatched through the newly formed Carat Digital division, includes Carat advertisers, media researchers and interactive-TV-technology vendors. Carat clients will get a chance to participate in developing interactive-TV-ad models from the start.

Because digital-video-recorder users skip 92% of the ads, according to Forrester Research, many advertisers and agencies are increasingly interested in experimenting with emerging media forms, such as video-on-demand and interactive TV, to reach consumers as their viewing patterns change. DVRs are found in 3% to 4% of homes today and should infiltrate 10% within 18 months and 41% within five years, Forrester says.

the problem

"I am terribly passionate about technology and particularly interactive TV technology," says David Verklin, CEO, Carat Americas. "It represents an unbelievable opportunity for advertisers to target advertising with less waste."

The problem, though, is that interactive TV programs and ads that have been created without advertiser input haven't always worked well, says Mitch Oscar, exec VP, Carat Digital.

The group, the Carat Digital Interactive Television Exchange, includes executives from various divisions of Carat; Carat clients such as Marriot, JP Morgan Chase, New Line Entertainment and Pfizer; cable programmer Turner Broadcasting; audience-measurement firm erinMedia; customer-relationship-marketing firm Epsilon; and Forrester Research. Technology providers, including navigation company MetaTV, interactive-TV firm GoldPocket, VOD-software company N2 Broadband and Invidi, which offers addressable advertising tools, will present their solutions at each meeting.

Oscar spearheaded a similar initiative when he worked at Universal McCann back in 2001 to share best practices for interactive TV. Today however, new-media technology has evolved significantly and been deployed widely enough for advertisers to begin investing real money.

Carat is one of a handful of media agencies exploring emerging media forms on TV. Starcom MediaVest's Tim Hanlon, the agency's senior VP-director for emerging contacts, has become an outspoken advocate for increasing advertiser presence in venues such as VOD, enhanced TV and addressable ads, as long as the usage data is made available for those media. His counterpart on the Media-Vest side is Adam Gerber, who heads up new Internet and TV initiatives as senior VP-group director, MediaVest USA. Mediaedge:cia in New York built an interactive lab that it uses as a show-and-tell room to demonstrate to clients the advertising opportunities in VOD, interactive TV and sync-to-broadcast applications. The agency has executed more advanced TV campaigns this year than in the three years leading up to it, in part because the studio allows clients to see and understand new applications, said Michael Bologna, director-emerging communications.

`bookmark' it

Other efforts to understand new media include the work done by the Advanced Television Committee with the American Association of Advertising Agencies, which issued guidelines for on-demand metrics earlier this year.

At the first meeting of the Carat group in early December, MetaTV presented its technology, which allows viewers to navigate in and out of interactive applications on its cable service. MetaTV enables emerging ad models such as the so-called request for interaction, in which a viewer can opt for more information and be delivered seamlessly to a virtual channel or a long form video, Oscar says. MetaTV also allows users to "bookmark" an ad and return to it later. The group liked MetaTV's offering, but did ask for the interactive components to be simpler and better integrated with the message, says Janice Rudenauer, senior VP, Epsilon, who attended the meeting.

Pete Ansel, VP-business development, MetaTV, plans to incorporate some of the group's suggestions into its product development: "This is a way for us to make sure the platform we look for our cable operator customers to deploy has the features and functionality so they can do business with the networks and advertisers."

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