"Comcast is deploying at the end of June in Baltimore to more than 100,000 homes," Carat Digital Executive Vice President Mitch Oscar told a more-than-standing-room-only crowed of 130 industry execs crammed into Carat's tiny New York conference room during the most recent installment of the agency's periodic Digital Exchange meetings. Oscar was referring to a plan by Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator, to begin rolling out high power addressable TV advertising technology developed by Invidi Technologies that some executives believe will change the dynamics of the TV advertising industry.
WPP's Irwin Gotlieb is chief among them. The agency holding company recently took a sizeable stake in Invidi and the GroupM chief was named to Invidi's board. Motorola, one of the top manufacturers of digital TV set-top devices, also took a significant stake in Invidi, which has raised more than $61 million in start-up capital to date, all before it has actually deployed in a single TV household.
That will change in June, according to executives familiar with the Comcast deal, who note that the agreement already includes several big advertising deals.
The ultimate goal, Invidi Executive Vice President Michael Kubin said during the presentation, is the creation of a "virtual national digital network targeting all days, all dayparts, all channels."
The Invidi deployment comes decades after the interactive TV industry first began promising Madison Avenue that it would change the way advertisers target, interact with, and measure the response of their commercials. It also comes as other players ranging from Navic to Google also are finally making headway, and as online video begins mimicking and, some believe, rivaling television's ability to deliver the same.
During the meeting Google executive Dan Gertsacov demonstrated the latest iteration of the search giant's so-called "Goolge TV Ads" program, which marries an online, auction-based system for buying TV advertising with Google's methods for analyzing the clickstream data produced by TV digital set-top devices to give advertisers and agencies the ability to buy and evaluate TV the way they would online search.
The first iteration of the system enabled advertisers to buy TV time based on networks and dayparts. The iteration shown at Carat Wednesday revealed that advertisers and media buyers can now procure TV advertising time based on key words or terms, much the way they would buy online search.
A computer laptop marketer, for example, can now type in the word "laptop" and find a schedule of TV shows referencing computer laptops that they might place ads into.
The keyword based advertising system is also tied to a new "dashboard" management system Google executives have been pushing to agencies and advertisers that would enable them to plan, buy and evaluate the impact of both search and offline advertising buys seamlessly and simultaneously. The system, they say, enables advertisers to see what impact search ads have on TV audiences, and what impact TV advertising has on search results.
To illustrate that point, a Gertsacov showed data correlating relevant search queries for General Motors' Pontiac division, when Pontiac ads appeared on television. The dashboard system also is capable of generating overnight post-buy reports detailing the precise audiences of specific commercials, as well as their "action-based pricing."
Executives from The Weather Channel's TV and online units, and from video search engine developer Digitalsmiths, also presented, making it one of the most lively, and jam-packed of Carat's Digital Exchanges yet.
Carat chief David Verklin even made a brief appearance, marveling at the fire code violating size of the crowd, which included several top media industry executives.
"My, my, how this has grown," he told the room of 130 people. The first exchange meeting, he noted, included only 25 people.