Future Tool: Addressable Spot Cable TV Advertising

The ability to target TV ads has moved from a shotgun to a rifle and finally to a laser beam approach with the promise of addressable TV advertising for the spot cable market.

A deal signed last December now allows spot cable rep firm National Cable Communications to test technology from Visible World and SeaChange International. The technology gives advertisers the ability to put together different versions of commercials and deliver them to customers in different geographic zones using cable TV availability. The manufacturers say the variables that can be customized in real time include geographic selectivity, programming content, demographic clusters, date/time sensitivity, and product offerings.

National Cable Communications bills itself as the nation’s largest spot cable television ad rep firm, with access to 98% of the ad-insertable cable households in 2,500 systems and almost all 210 TV markets.

CEO Tom Olson says that several years ago NCC began working on an electronic platform that would enhance targeting possibilities and deliver “bulletproof” results within subsets. While that particular platform didn’t pan out, Olson says NCC has been on the lookout for another solution ever since. Visible World’s system brings direct-mail-type capabilities to TV.



Imagine a TV spot for a tourist attraction that includes segments targeting different groups — one aimed at young single adults, with an emphasis on nightlife; another for families, focusing on beaches and activities, a third, for seniors, highlighting dining and casinos. The TV ads could be created with this in mind and then served automatically to different parts of the viewing area based on demographics.

This could eventually lead to ads served up personally to households via set-top boxes, although Olson says this is still years away. The capability to deliver by geographic zones is here now, though, he says.

“This is just a starting point,” Olson says.

NCC rolled out the current system in the Albany, N.Y., area through its CableLink Interconnects division. Olson says Albany was picked because of its proximity to NCC’s New York City headquarters and receptivity by advertisers and MSOs.

The first campaigns will be for Disney Films, A&E, and The History Channel.

The system will then be available in NCC’s other CableLink Interconnects markets by the end of this month. They are Buffalo, N.Y.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Cleveland; Hartford, Conn.; Providence, R.I.; and Wilkes-Barre, Pa. These markets give the new system access to up to 4 million homes.

Visible World president Seth Haberman says the company is expanding the connection between commercial messages and programming.

“By providing the set of tools necessary to easily create dynamic-customized TV advertising, and the SeaChange equipment necessary to route specific creative, we are able to increase both the message value and the level of granularity by delivering it down to the cable zone level,” Haberman says.

Olson says the new technology makes it all the more important to bring in all areas of the agency and advertiser to brainstorm and bring everything to bear on the TV spots.

“It’s got to be appropriate to the groups you’re reaching. The starting point is the creative concept, it’s to recognize that you’ve got the ability to shoot a great deal of footage,” Olson says. The footage also needs to be coded properly to allow the commercials to be served, but the planning needs to begin at the advertiser and account manager level to ensure smooth sailing.

Olson says that reaction has been positive so far and believes there will be more traction as things move along. He points to AdLink’s success in the Los Angeles area as an example, although he says the new system takes that concept a step further.

“This is really a step in the direction that advertisers for quite a few years have wanted to go — to more accurately deliver the message in a format that’s appropriate to the audience. That’s one of the key elements in this,” he says.

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