VivaKi Launches Next Phase Of 'Pool': 'Lane 2'

Tracey ScheppachWith a focus on short-form content, Publicis' VivaKi unit on Tuesday launched the second phase of its Pool initiative -- a highly collaborative effort to develop a more consumer-friendly replacement for the standard pre-roll ad unit. "We have formulated 'Lane 2,'" Tracey Scheppach, SVP and video innovation director at Starcom USA, said during the OMMA Video conference on Tuesday.

Scheppach, who is credited with conceiving the Pool, said the ambitious initiative is now open to all VivaKi clients. For Lane 2, the Pool's seven publishing partners include AOL, BBE, CBS, Fancast, Microsoft Advertising, and Tremor Media. Marketing partners, meanwhile, include Bank of America, General Mills, and U.S. Cellular. Additional marketers from across the broader VivaKi network are currently being signed and are expected to be confirmed in mid-July.

"We have increased the number of partners based on internal demand at VivaKi," VivaKi Nerve Center President Curt Hecht said regarding Lane 2. "And also, the number of media companies -- in both returning partners as well as new ones, which brings more diversity to the types of companies participating."

Along with "beating pre-roll," Scheppach promised that the Pool's resulting ad unit is guaranteed to "scale and create empowerment." And empowerment is exactly what ad units are most lacking today, she said. "What we have found is that pre-roll doesn't take advantage of one of the key elements of the Internet: Empowerment."

From OMMA Video on Tuesday, Alan Schulman, chairman and chief creative officer, U.DIG >The Digital Innovations Group, questioned whether the industry isn't moving too fast to effectively nail down a solution to advertisers' video issues. "I'm not sure the industry is going to stand still long enough," he said.

Last November, Publicis' VivaKi brought together top online video suppliers (AOL, Broadband Enterprises, CBS, Discovery, Hulu, Microsoft and Yahoo) -- along with a half dozen major marketers -- to embark on the Pool initiative. The team began with 30 ad models that they voted down to five, which were then subjected to qualitative testing to arrive at the two remaining units.

In April, Scheppach said those two models -- which "have very different flavors in terms of length of time" -- are still undergoing extensive quantitative tests, and the winner is expected to debut by February 2010. The winning unit, added Scheppach, will not be unfamiliar to the experienced Web user. "Most of the units you have seen in the marketplace," she said in April.

The original idea of Pool -- named to connote group effort -- was to improve the effectiveness of online advertising for the industry, and the quality of the viewing experience for consumers, according to Curt Hecht.

Advertisers participating in the broader initiative -- all clients of Publicis agencies -- include Allstate, Applebee's, Capital One, Nestle and Purina, each of which has been guaranteed rights to purchase the first new inventory that will be made available with the new format. According to Scheppach and Hecht, participants in the Pool's development each had to cover the costs of the research and development process.

Scheppach also assured that plenty of invaluable data is coming out of all the Pool's testing -- none of which will be released until later in the year.

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