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What Everyone Is Talking About Today

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NEW YORK ( -- Philips Electronics and its agency, Omnicom's DDB, New York, came up with a great idea recently. Why not do something that its audience will really appreciate? The idea was to buy the four minutes of screen time that cinemas usually sell to advertisers and run a 15-second spot that told the audience Philips was helping the movie start sooner. Only problem was Screenvision, seller of cinema ads, wouldn't let them do it.

Philips was willing to pay for four minutes of ad time to run a 15-second spot saying the movie was starting earlier. Screenvision said no thanks.

"We are finding that the status quo is a difficult hurdle to leap," Eric Plaskonos, Philips's director of brand communications, told Brian Steinberg, who chronicled the failed attempt for this morning's Wall Street Journal.

Martha Cleary, a group media director at Aegis Group's Carat USA, an ad-buying firm that works for Philips, told Steinberg that Screenvision didn't like that a big-screen ad was poking fun at movie advertising. The DDB ad would have read, "We could have run a four-minute commercial. Instead, we chose simplicity. Sometimes, simplicity means getting you to your movie quicker."

A similar sentiment about the status quo was echoed by media buyers attending last week's 4As Media Conference. Starcom Entertainment's senior VP, Laura Caraccioli-Davis, noted her frustration at the gap between the ideas and plans the media agencies would like to execute and the reality of what can be done, as traditional media companies resist pushing into new territory to protect their old turf.

But DDB and Philips have the right idea. We're at a moment where advertisers are going to have to figure out how to reach consumers without being seen as an interruption to their entertainment. An ad model that lets a marketer tell the audience this really funny clip you downloaded for free was thanks to our sponsorship is one the industry should be cultivating, not squashing.

Here at Watercooler we're not surprised movie theater chains balked at this idea. Hollywood, as evidenced by the Oscar show's relentless promotion of seeing movies the old-fashion way on the big screen, has been fighting new distribution methods for its wares fiercely for some time now. It's probably the last place that will willingly give up control of its distribution.

Philips and DDB have given up on the idea for now, but we hope they try again. It definitely seems like an idea that has legs in an on-demand world. Broadband video and video on demand will pave the way for TV programs to switch to a sponsor-like model much faster. And the more marketers and agencies that figure out how to reach consumers in a way that makes them grateful for their participation are the ones that will win.

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