By Published on .

When college students go back to school this fall, chances are good they'll be interacting with more than just food in the cafeteria.

Coca-Cola Co., New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. all have signed on as sponsors of the College Television Network, an interactive system that lets students at 225 university cafeterias select CD-ROM music videos from a touch-screen menu.

"It's a perfect barter system: We give the schools the programming and they give us the audience," said Peter Kauff, CEO of Laser Video Network, the New York company behind the 7-month-old College Television Network. "In addition to a totally captive audience, the capabilities for interactivity are extraordinary."

Starting this fall, advertisers will be able to use the system for couponing and instant opinion polling. The network also plans to offer recording companies information about how often a song is requested and what effect the system has on local album sales.

The network has annual licensing agreements with major record labels including Atlantic Records, Mercury, Epic and Columbia.

Food services at the University of North Carolina have used the network's "edit message" capability to post their own messages on the screen every 15 minutes, but have yet to use the coupon printing function.

"We hope to be couponing by August, because we have convenience stores on the campus that can accept coupons," said Dave Watjen, building director of residence dining halls at UNC.

Warner Bros., the newest advertiser, plans to start using the system to promote its upcoming "Natural Born Killers" this month. Advertising rates vary, but the cost per thousand comes out to less than $3, Mr. Kauff said. Ads appear on the system every 12 minutes.

But one initial advertiser, MCI Communications Corp., decided not to renew when its contract with Laser Video Network ended in May.

"Its interactive capabilities are a big reason we were initially interested in the network," said Steve Soldano, associate media director for MCI agency Messner, Vetere, Berger, McNamee, Schmetterer/Euro RSCG. But when the promised capabilities didn't materialize right away, MCI took a pass, at least for the time being.

"The results were, as we expected, less than ideal," Mr. Soldano admitted. "We'd like to see it get to the next plateau before we fund another wave of learning on their end."

The system does help build brand awareness, perhaps to a fault. With only three advertisers, students are inundated with the same spots.

Despite the fact that CD-ROMs are produced and delivered each month with new videos and ads, some believe that even more frequent updates-especially with advertising-are necessary.

"A lot of times students will watch ads once or twice, and then ignore them," said Joe Pianese, general manager of food services at Florida State University, which feeds 4,000 students daily. "If ads were changed more often, they'd pay even more attention to the eight monitors in the cafeteria."

Laser Video Network plans to be in more than 400 colleges by yearend, thanks to a contract signed earlier this year with Marriott Food Services.

Also under negotiation are couponing programs with local music stores as well as live reporting for top-of-the-hour broadcasts of weather, sports and news.

"This network is a great idea, but it requires investment spending to find the right path," Messner's Mr. Soldano said.

Most Popular
In this article: