Canoe is taking shape to be our industry's first effort to help solve this data issue. However, at the beginning of its rollout, we should be prepared for a very bumpy ride.
There is a great deal of trepidation in the advertising sector on how to adapt the buying process to the age of time-shifted digital television. Many feel it will be impossible for current systems to adapt. But the addition of new systems can be less stressful by first taking the interactive TV data and then linking the data into existing media buying system's advertiser reports, (like a Donovan Data Systems or WideOrbit). The building of an interactive TV company is a large systems-integration project that will involve a lot of cooperation and financial support. Other companies (think Priceline.com) have successfully done it -- and television is certainly overdue for this level of integration.
Canoe Opens Market for Competition
Canoe should probably be viewed as something like an Internet ad-serving company. At first Canoe's primary verticals may be the cable networks owned by the members of Canoe (like Rainbow Holdings or Comcast Networks) and also the local insertions onto the consortium's cable systems. The placement of interactive advertising could then be sold through these verticals and then TV response data from the verticals could potentially be sent in a feed to standard media buying applications housed at the advertising agencies.
As the TV ad-serving industry matures, these verticals could also give way to horizontal ad placement across show genre and time of day. A buyer could then choose to purchase "local broadcast news" horizontal placements through one ad-serving company, and in conjunction, purchase a vertical like "sports nets" through Canoe. Interactive enhancements could theoretically be billed separately through TV ad-serving companies, while traditional "non-interactive" commercial placements could be billed as they always have been.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
The goal through the TV ad-serving companies is to provide custom data that will give advertisers the metrics they need for their ERP systems. In future, some standardization for ratings data will still be needed for the mass media and upfront schedules. Fine-tuning the measurement of media can come after enough investment flows into interactive TV technologies that we see scale on the horizon.
The advertising industry should not be hung up at this juncture with how to measure the day-to-day progress of Canoe -- but rather embrace its efforts as agents of change. We should focus on how we can support the build-out of Canoe, as this will open the floodgates for additional television ad-serving companies and keep the TV market competitive.