“Advertisers need information to make decisions,” says David Ernst, SVP and director of worldwide media research at Initiative Media in New York. While he understands the reasons why some of the information might be held close to the vest, but it isn’t helping interactive TV’s chances with media planners and buyers.
“One of the challenges we have is that there’s not a lot of good information being presented to us on interactive TV. We do recognize its proprietary nature but we need some level of information,” Ernst says.
And planners aren’t going to take at face value the figures that do come out from distributors. What they’re looking for are independent metrics, Nielsen-style metrics that can determine how many people viewed the interactive medium.
Some metrics are better than no metrics, he says. But also expect the agency’s research department to audit the data.
“We need to have some independent method of measurement. That means a lot to an agency. You just have to consider what we’ve been through with the Internet,” he says.
Karl Meyer, director of advertising sales at Digeo Inc. and a former ad sales executive at TiVo, says Digeo delivers virtual channels in 657,000 Charter Communications digital households. Meyer says the advertising potential is growing, along with the number of homes that Charter is wiring digitally. The cable company plans to have two million by the end of 2003. And the advertisers who learn it now will benefit the most.
“Take that leap of faith. Test it. You can be that next Ford, the one that leads the charge. BMW Films, for example,” Meyer says. Ford Motor Co. has participated in several interactive campaigns, including one involving the Ford Expedition and Discovery Networks.
The stakes are high. Cynthia Ponce, executive vice president of advertising sales at the ABC Television Network, estimates that the industry has the opportunity to see a portion of the $200 million money spent on direct marketing.
The amount of money spent on interactive television is still a tiny portion of the total TV buy. But Ernst said that in the future, there won’t be a differentiation between interactive and the rest of television.
“ITV will become TV, just as cable TV became TV,” he predicts.