Alec Gerster Continues Search for Media's Holy Grail

Former Initiative Chief Joins Interactive Ad Specialist Navic as CMO

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NEW YORK ( -- Ad-industry veteran Alec Gerster is joining Navic Networks, one of a number of companies that hopes to take advantage of technology that will help make the once-passive TV-watching experience into an active back-and-forth between viewers, programmers and advertisers. He will serve as chief marketing officer of the Waltham, Mass., company.
Alec Gerster
Alec Gerster

Firms such as Navic have sprouted up as TV set-top boxes become more capable of allowing TV viewers to respond to programs and enticements on their living-room screens. The company helps marketers place ads across specific pieces of programming and find particular audiences, as well as make use of audience data.

Media's holy grail
Making use of set-top box data, which might tell advertisers exactly how audiences scamper from channel to channel, has developed into something of a holy grail for the media industry. The theory is that if marketers and media companies can gain insight into audience behavior -- and beam ads that are pertinent to people in particular geographic regions, income brackets or even ZIP codes -- they can push specific ads to specific people, and cut down on negative sentiment toward ads that seem intrusive or irrelevant.

"There is a lot you can do with television beyond what we're doing with it right now. That could be enhanced [ad] units, interactive ad units that take you to long-form video," explained Mr. Gerster, who will try to broaden awareness of Navic's technology and services. "This could mean better targeting and use of inventory based on use of real-time viewer data. We're just beginning to scratch the surface on that."

Mr. Gerster, 60, had a long career in the traditional agency world. He served as worldwide CEO for Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative, and worked for 30 years at Grey Global Group, where he rose to become CEO of MediaCom Worldwide, Grey's media unit.
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