The new Web-based planning tool was created in response to a request from Peggy Green, the top television buyer at Publicis' Zenith Optimedia Group, which is also one of the largest buyers of TV advertising.
Green made the request after the 2009 Super Bowl -- the first to be broadcast in HDTV -- because she was seeing more of her clients beginning to produce commercials in HDTV. And while it was relatively easy to determine if and when those spots were actually airing in HDTV at the network level, Green said the picture was a lot fuzzier on the local level, where HDTV coverage may be spotty due to the fact that stations need to invest in special equipment to insert and transmit HDTV ads.
"It's like the chicken and the egg," Green says, noting that it may be difficult for some stations to justify the economics of making that investment, because there is no guarantee that they will be able to "monetize" the investment through higher ratings or more TV advertising dollars.
Green declined to say whether agencies like Zenith Optimedia would explicitly move advertising budgets to stations broadcasting HDTV ads, but she did say it improves the value for advertisers who spent the money to produce them.
The TVB has been developing the HDTV station planning tool for a while, says Vice President-Communications Gary Belis, but is making it live now as part of the relaunch of TVB.org.
After previewing data on TV stations inserting HDTV ads, Zenith Optimedia's Green says there do not seem to be any consistent patterns among TV station groups.
"It's all over the place," she says, noting that among the major broadcast network owned station groups, only Disney-owned ABC has made a significant commitment to HDTV commercials.
"That makes sense given the skew of the ABC stations," she says. "Their stations tend to be in more affluent homes."