Agencies Demand Standards For On-Demand, Issue Interactive TV Guidelines

In the first step toward industry standards for emerging on-demand advertising platforms--including TiVo and other digital video recording technologies as well as video-on-demand services--the American Association of Advertising Agencies today will release a set of guidelines. The recommendations, developed by the AAAA's Advanced Television Committee, will get a full hearing later this week during the association's annual Media Conference in Orlando.

"This is the beginning of a formalized dialogue for all sides to figure out," said Tim Hanlon, vice president and director of emerging contacts at Starcom MediaVest Group and chair of the committee. He said that the purpose of the guidelines is to address the role of advertising in emerging television formats that give consumers great control over when, where, and what they see on television-something Madison Avenue is often criticized for not embracing fast enough.

"It's high time that we start responding to those types of questions, because the technology and the systems and programming, all that strategic stuff, is being thought of and done today," he said.



Hanlon acknowledges that the industry is a little late, but emphasizes that the AAAA committee isn't trying to ruffle feathers--it's trying to find out how advertising can be a part of these new types of television, and get on with it.

"What we're trying to do is say this is not a shot across the bow. This is not a threat. This is not a Martin Luther Reformation, saying 'These are our demands,'" Hanlon said. The feedback going forward will help shape the guidelines.

The committee has already reached out to a number of industry sources, including the Interactive Television Alliance, Digital Marketing Association, Advertising Research Foundation, cable/satellite operators, Nielsen Media Research, and others. None have seen the final document, which will be unveiled at the conference Wednesday.

"Hopefully, some interesting and constructive dialogue will follow," Hanlon said. "That's exactly our intent: How to achieve what everybody wants to achieve--how is advertising going to play a role in on-demand video?"

Hanlon said that the foundation for the discussion is that current TV audience research methods will give way to digital set-top data, making way for a census-based approach to tracking hundreds of linear channels and thousands of choices for on-demand, time-shifted content. For marketers and advertisers to value TV's brave new world, they're going to have to have metrics.

"Agencies have quite a bit of work ahead of them to make sense of all this data," Hanlon said. "But first things first. We need to start getting the data before we start doing something with it."

The new guidelines include:

-- Total gross universe counts by designated marketing areas, with actual counts of total households passed; total households subscribing; total analog and digital household subscribers; total video on demand-enabled households; total digital video recorder/near-digital video recorder-enabled households; and total digital set-top boxes.

-- Set-top box verification of ad-message unit delivery--namely, a total gross count of ad-messaging units delivered to set-top box units. It might also include monitoring based on the AAAA/ANA AD-ID system.

-- Viewing duration of the ad-messaging units, whether they were fast-forwarded or rewound, and paused live or recorded.

-- Time, day, and date data, preferably second-by-second.

-- Geographic identification by ZIP+4 clusters, heeding privacy concerns here and elsewhere to make the data anonymous.

-- The number of clicks, time of clicks, and where the clicks came from-ads or content. In the case of virtual channels, which can resemble Web pages for their interactivity and banner ads, the guidelines prescribe a gross count and breakdown of behavior during and following clicks.

-- A quick return of data to agencies and advertisers, preferably within 24 hours.

-- Verification through a third-party firm.

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