Canoe Achieves Some Success, Smoother Tech Will Enhance Output
Forget about paddling a canoe upstream. David Verklin suggested Wednesday that Canoe Ventures' efforts to launch its interactive advertising application have been more like turning around an aircraft carrier while dodging torpedoes.
"It's been a great challenge ... an enormous engineering undertaking," the Canoe CEO said on a panel at an Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) event.
Canoe-served interactive (iTV) ads are now running in national ad breaks on cable networks, Verklin said, although he declined to provide specifics, including the number of homes the spots are in. He did say that all are served by either Comcast or Time Warner Cable.
That would mark a modest portion of the footprint Canoe desires; it hopes to deliver ads into households stretching across a customer base served by the six cable operators that own the 2-year-old initiative. Cox, Charter, Cablevision and Bright House join Comcast and TWC in the enterprise. Verklin said he expects the other four to gradually link with the interconnected patchwork over the next 18 months.
Still, he sought to deliver a message of achievement -- that just launching a platform that can run the same iTV ad simultaneously in multiple markets fulfills a promise that goes back years. "Not that it is coming," he said. "It has begun, but we are in the early days."
Networks that are working with Canoe on iTV ads are NBC Universal, Comcast Networks, Discovery Communications and Rainbow Media.
While there were some hiccups in getting the six Canoe owners to work in sync, the principal trouble in laying the infrastructure has been equipping set-top boxes deployed by the group with a common EBIF (Enhanced Binary Interchange Format) technology. Plus, the boxes can range from the rudimentary to the cutting-edge, making an already complicated process colossal, Verklin indicated.
The launched Canoe iTV version allows for "request for information" ads, where an overlay appears on the screen during a 30-second spot. That serves as a prompt, letting viewers order more information on the advertised product, a coupon, a sample, etc. The order process is a double opt-in, via several clicks of the remote control.
At the ARF event, where ROI is an ongoing concern, Verklin touted the system as offering "measurable engagement." Using the set-top boxes, Canoe can provide an advertiser with data on how many overlays are seen by network, daypart and program, along with specifics on the number of clicks at various stages of an order process.
While Comcast and TWC are farthest along in EBIF deployment for their set-top boxes, estimates of 25 million homes having the technology by year's-end have been floated.
EBIF can propel more than advanced advertising, helping deliver viewing enhancements, whether on-screen widgets or Twitter accessibility. As the cable industry looks to tout the benefits, TWC executive Warren Lapa said earlier in the week: "We're working on a better brand for EBIF because that doesn't necessarily resonate with consumers."