All Hands on Deck

Maybe it should have been called project Submarine. Submerged in secrecy during the latter half of 2007, the cryptically monikered Project Canoe surfaced as a real, well-funded industry-wide initiative this winter, when Comcast announced that it would invest between $50 million and $70 million to float the establishment of a standard interactive advertising platform. When completed, Canoe would replace the technologically isolated “kayaks” of the top MSOs with a single simplified system for executing national cable-ad purchasing. The system would not only enable advertisers to easily transverse myriad cable systems to transmit their spots nationally or across DMAs, but would also allow them to track which viewers actually saw their ads and when.

Canoe would also feature a range of other next-gen capabilities, such as advanced audience tabulation and addressability. The latter feature would allow advertisers to target viewers on an individual level, so that — to borrow a phrase from one media agency official — dog ads go only to homes with dogs.

Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts — who also chairs CableLabs, the industry research and development consortium that’s been quietly spearheading Canoe’s gestation for several years — has openly compared the system to Google’s Internet search business for its ability to match advertising to relevant users across aggregated content. 

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