Industry Group Gathers to Plot Ad Sales Strategies

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NEW YORK ( -- With online broadband video rapidly becoming the apple of marketers’ collective eye, cable's video-on-demand proponents gathered yesterday to grab back some of the spotlight at a meeting of the Innovations in Digital Advertising group.
Marketers' rapidly growing interest in broadband video advertising is of great concern to cable companies that have made large investments in video-on-demand technologies.

Measurement metrics
Cathy Hetzel, senior VP of on-demand essentials at measurement firm Rentrak, reminded the group's members -- executives from media, advertising agencies and marketers looking to hammer out the technical difficulties of advertising in VOD -- that there are many more metrics available for measuring cable VOD than for broadband video online.

“What you get in [online] broadband is clicks. You can't get data on what is viewed, for what duration or information on what was paused, fast-forwarded or rewound.”

Ms. Hetzel, who is on the IDIA technology steering committee, acknowledged that cable VOD still posed some problems for marketers -- inserting new ads into a VOD program, for example, remains a technically difficult task. While CBS and NBC have deals with Comcast to make some of their network programming available on VOD, marketers must work under much greater time constraints since their ads need to be encoded for on-demand viewing.

Advertisers need help
Digital media specialist Pat Dunbar, who formed the unique cross-industry IDIA group through her own consultancy, Dima Group, said advertisers need to help define the future of VOD. "The advertiser is no longer the client. In today's world distributors have the power," Ms. Dunbar said. "Advertising is a miniscule part of the budget for the likes of Comcast and Verizon. It is incumbent on advertisers to get more informed and not wait till until someone comes to them with the perfect solutions."

Ms. Dunbar predicts that competition between platforms such as broadband video, cellphones and cable VOD platforms will start to heat up. "One piece of advertising is 'Where is my customer?' The other is 'What’s the overhead to reach that customer?' There will start to be a comparison between the overheads of broadband and cable video on demand. One major problem for growing the on-demand universe as an advertising channel is that most marketers don’t have the budgets for repurposing their creative to fit across multiple platforms.”

Broadband viewing's growth
To give some idea of the growing size of online broadband viewing, Bill Niemeyer, chief of analysis and research at Dima Group, said U.S. households watched 1.6 billion hours of ad-supported broadband video content last year and that current ad spending on broadband video is on track to hit $375 million in 2006. He estimated that there were 141 million broadband views in December.

Separately, Nielsen Media Research updated those in attendance on its own plans to measure VOD viewing. Scott Brown, Nielsen’s senior VP-strategic relationships, markets and technology, said that the first phase of its plan to measure VOD viewing begins in June. Phase one would credit broadcasters with viewers to recently televised programming on VOD platforms. Nielsen said the same national commercials in each show would need to be aired in order for each broadcaster to receive the viewer credit. The next phase in late 2006 would see Nielsen tabulate viewing of ad-free pay-TV services such as HBO On Demand. In 2007, sibling Nielsen Entertainment is expected to be able to track transactional on-demand viewing, such as paid-for content.

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