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April 17, 2008

Advertising in an On-Demand Universe

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So we’ve heard a lot about how you have to go to your customers now. Let’s see if we can’t figure out how that works, eh? Hopefully moderator Abbey Klaassen (Advertising Age) and panelists Mitchell Oscar (CaratDigital), Christopher Curtin (Disney Parks & Resorts), Barry Frey (Cablevision Systems Corp) and Karen Bressner (TiVo) can shed some light on that. Also, eee! TiVO and Disney on the same panel? Did they do this line up just for me or what?

Abbey starts off by saying there was supposed to have been a 3-5 minute video but it’s not going to run. Woe. She starts with a question instead. Are the consumers in control?

Yes.

Okay, so why is it still business as usual out there? How do you get people to opt-in to your message?

Barry gets to go first and answer “what’s the vision for on demand advertising?” Basically it’s to give consumers the controls to get or avoid messages.

Karen: Our on demand at Tivo is a little different. Our vision is to be the entertainment center of the home. We’re a digital video retriever. With us, the consumer is absolutely in control. From an advertising perspective, we want to play off the 30 second commercial and to give them different ways to interact with the customers.

Is that what advertisers want?

Chris: The vision at Disney for television is to use it as an innovative platform. Walt started that with the Wonderful World of Disney. He would open that up with a piece of what the rest of the company was doing. We went from that to 20-30 years of 30 second spots but now we’re going back to Walt’s model. We started a Disney Travel channel that people can click and have someone call them to get more information. The average guest at DW is there for 4 or 5 days and people want to get the most out of that time. They’ve created a bunch of entertaining content based around that. If you want a DVD, email, or even book or the vacation then and there, you can do that. They have a 23% conversion rate. They’re happy with not just the rate but also with the trend. And the fact that this is television (Cablevision) is amazing. [Karen jumps in to say that TiVo can do that too!]

Mitch: Mentions Wink and how that was very successful.

Barry: What’s interesting is the evolution. The most powerful element is the learning and optimization. When they started out it was a child, now the channel is an adult on steroids. They can tell the successes through rewinds and the failures through fast forwards. That gives them the ability to optimize month over month. Plus this is all pre populated from the cable data.

Abbey: If this works so well, why aren’t most advertisers doing it? What’s the hang-ups?

Barry: It relies on content, creativity and vision. It’s a new medium. To be successful you have to do the research and get engaged and be creative.

Chris: I think it hasn’t taken off because there’s a lot of trial and error. At first, the only option was a DVD and not many people wanted the same thing they’d just seen. They had to figure out what the next logical step was, and that was booking or getting more information. It’s not as good as it can become, but it’s not as bad as people might perceive. [I’m the same way. – Lisa]

Karen: If you are selling even the most obscure opportunity online, you can put it on your computer and there it is. For TiVo or Cablevision, they might not be familiar with it, they’re not educated. She agrees 110% with Barry on the need for research and testing.

Abbey: It’s very difficult to do a national campaign, isn’t it?

Karen: We have a national footprint.

Mitch: Project Canoe is about having a technology that works with all systems and boxes, and that would allow national advertisers a one-stop-shop and the ability to go across all sorts of systems.

He’s a big proponent of local. None of the operators on national platforms have come to tell him what works. They don’t tell him that a banner plus different copy every week, etc. They need to optimize it better, show him the value.

Barry: It’s getting easier to get national. But it’s a world of niches out there; you need to participate where your customers are.

Karen: We have a lot of data on set top box information. We know every click of the button. [Um…] What we’ve noticed is that the top viewed shows are also the most recorded shows. So what we’re noticing is that even though your commercial is playing, you might not get it shown because people are recording it and fast forwarding it.

Barry: It’s true, we’ve noticed that too. The lower the engagement of the programming, the easier it is for people to leave. [Like why it’s better to advertise on a re-run of Friends, not American Idol – Lisa]

Karen: People aren’t necessarily not SEEING the ads. You have to pay attention while you’re fast forwarding so you might actually see it more than someone who is ignoring the commercial altogether. You have to design your commercial differently. People look at the middle of the screen. With TiVo you can put a banner over the commercial ‘click here for information on Disney’.

Chris: We’re learning and applying those learnings with each deal. We want to know the message and the most creative way to bring that message to life. We have 22,000 hotel rooms, so each night we need to convince enough people to come. We’re focused on what’s the idea that spans channel? What is the universal message?

Mitch: What have we learned? We put our commercial on our micro-site (showcase in TiVo speak) because we didn’t have video. On average people watched it for 35 seconds. It was a 30 second commercial. What’s going on there? Were people watching twice? Was it confusing or did they want more information? [Do we get an answer or try and come up with conspiracy theories? – Lisa]

Chris: In the beginning, no one is going to know about it. You have to have a way to draw people to that. Once you get viewers to your offering, reward them with something new. It shouldn’t just be the same thing. Give them incentive to come back.

Barry: There’s a lot of learning by advertiser. [There is SO MUCH razzing going on between Barry and Mitch. It’s adorable.] We’ve found that the audience is very sophisticated. They know they’re being sold but they don’t mind so long as they get entertainment, value and relevance, they’re okay with it. This kind of product improves the brand. They have a better experience overall. They got excited about it.

Question & Answer

Are there any issues with clearing a Disney Travel channel? Can Chase have a channel?

Barry: We’ve set aside the ability to make it available. The problem is clearing it with talent, actors and stuff for VOD.

Wishlist for VOD?

Chris: We’d like to stay a little exclusive. There’s a perception that it’s not on the same level of sophistication and we’d like to see it get raised. We think it’s important to put out programming that’s worthwhile and quality. We’d also like better navigation. It’s not user-friendly enough.

Who is responsible for promoting this?

Barry: It’s definitely a partnership. It’s also about environment. This is very safe environment. You’re not going to end up on an ad network were your brand is going to be next to something you don’t approve of.

Chris: It’s been a collaboration. He gives some specifics about how that was accomplished.

Barry and Karen give how their companies do promotions. I’m skipping it because my hands hurt and it’s very specific.

In terms of the platform, what are you doing to hook into Web 2.0?

Karen: Look for a press release tomorrow. But we’re working on it.

Is this something that smaller brands can use?

Barry: Yes, absolutely. We’ve done this with package goods too. Mars just chose us for promoting Dove. [That’s not a small brand, dude.] We also did one with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. [Neither is that one. Low consideration != smaller brand]

They drift off talking about lifestyle brands.

Mitch: It used to be that the media drove creative, now it’s going to be the creatives coming to the media.

How would you advise a cable operator to improve their platform?

Mitch: Navigation is impossible, metrics are poor, it’s not in perspective with the community and there’s not enough definition. It all needs to be more consumer friendly instead of just squashed in. I’d rather go to a local person directly who I can threaten directly. [Oh my!] [That’s the Sugarrae approach to business, I believe. – Lisa]

Chris: I don’t think we’d threaten, that’s not the tack we’d take. First they need to acknowledge the problems and then make a plan to improve it.

And with that, we’re done with another session. I’m going to skip my next and let my hands rest while the Advil kicks in. See you folks again after lunch for three more sessions!

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