Exchange Creates Choice

It was standing room only at a recent meeting in New York of the Carat Exchange, an informal network formed by Carat Digital's executive vice president, Mitch Oscar, to share learning on new media technologies. The media agency's occasional gathering of technologists, cable and satellite providers, researchers, agency executives, advertisers, and the odd reporter has quickly become a "must-attend" meeting, serving both as a venue for practical education and a catalyst for marketplace action.

"The object is to transform trials into ubiquitous deployment," says David Verklin, Carat's outspoken ceo, who helped create the Exchange late last year. The Exchange has already had a practical effect, laying the foundation for a series of consumer focus groups that were slated to begin this summer.

Another practical manifestation of the Exchange came when Carat hatched plans to develop interactive ads for client Hyundai this spring; Carat convened a "mini-Exchange" to vet various ad permutations. "We literally went though a series of exercises where we laid out all the different options  where we use a poll, how you do direct offers, [and so forth]," says Tom Walsh, senior vice president at Navic Networks, the technology partner for the ads.

Hyundai subsequently ran a two-week series of itv ads for four different Phoenix-based auto dealers, with a different tag for each. Oscar says the results of the first of four itv tests will be presented at the Exchange's September meeting, with details on which networks and in which dayparts the ads fared best. Other insights gleaned will be used to tweak the next three rounds of Hyundai ads in Phoenix.

Beyond pilot testing, the Exchange also serves as a barometer for those who are truly interested in interactive tv, says Tim McHugh, participant emuse's sales manager for the Americas. "The biggest thing for me is to see who is involved and who cares about this marketplace, because it's one that has started and stopped so many times over the last six years," he explains.

Lifetime tv, working to develop a video-on-demand strategy, attended the Exchange for the first time in June. "It's critical that we be there so we can see what people are testing," says Lisa Black, vice president, business and marketing development for Lifetime Entertainment Services.

Television audience research firm erinMedia says participants are getting to know each other and sharing more information than they would have otherwise. JPMorgan Chase, which is no longer a Carat client but still attends as an interested advertiser, praises the consumer-centric approach of the group.

The meetings are also open to the press, a gesture that guarantees coverage but also speaks to the open mission of the group, since few other groups like it allow reporters to attend and participate. And now Verklin is going a step further and letting competitors to play in the same sandbox. He's invited Mediaedge:cia to present a video-on-demand case study at the September Exchange meeting.

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