GroupM-Backed Invidi Goes National, Dishes Up Addressable TV Ad Deal

In a deal that will give addressable advertising its first national footprint in the U.S. television marketplace, satellite TV operator EchoStar has agreed to deploy Invidi Technologies on its Dish Network. The agreement, puts Invidi, a company that is backed by both WPP's powerful GroupM unit and digital TV set-top developer Motorola, ahead of pack of developers racing to create a national infrastructure of an addressable TV advertising marketplace including Visible World, Microsoft-owned Navic and the cable industry's own Canoe Ventures.

"I think it's great," says Mitch Oscar, executive vice president-televisual applications at Havas' MPG unit, which has been leading the charge for the development of an advanced television advertising infrastructure. "We've been hearing rumors of a major deployment for some time. Now we get to see what Invidi can do with dynamic ad insertion. That's great."

By dynamic ad insertion, Oscar means that Invidi's technology will enable advertisers to serve ads to individual households, and potentially individuals within those households, based on what advertising is relevant to them. It is, Oscar says, the equivalent to a similar trend taking place in online advertising called "behavioral targeting," and some experts believe it is decoupling advertising placement from the context of programming and editorial environments.

Another important, but somewhat less emphasized aspect of the Invidi's deal with EchoStar is that will for the first time enable a national satellite TV operator to serve local targeted advertising - something EchoStar's chief rival, DirecTV, presumably would also like to have.

The deal, meanwhile, gives Invidi some real leverage in the enhanced TV advertising marketplace, giving the reach of upwards of 14 million Dish Network households over time, though it will probably initially deploy in only about four to five million of those households that already are equipped with advanced digital set-top receivers. The technology is expected to be deployed by the end of he second quarter of 2009.

"Our goal from the very beginning is that we want to be universal," says Michael Kubin, executive vice president of Invidi, and a long-time Madison Avenue media executive. "We want everyone to be a partner distributing us. The goal is to be a national digital network."

The deal with EchoStar is interesting for other reasons, including the fact that the satellite operator has been among the most aggressive players in deploying advanced TV advertising systems. Last year, EchoStar cut a deal with Google TV Ads to sell its TV advertising inventory. Invidi's Kubin said the Invidi addressable TV advertising initially would not be part of the Google TV Ads offering, but that it could become part of that down the road.

One of the most important aspects of the deal, MPG's Oscar says, is the fact that it will enable advertisers and agencies to have a seamless, "one-stop" insertion order for addressable TV advertising being served nationally. He says that a major impediment has been the difficulty advertisers and agencies have dealing with piecemeal relationships with individual TV operators utilizing a myriad of interactive, and enhanced TV advertising systems.

Ultimately, the cable industry's Canoe Ventures, which is being headed up by former Madison Avenue heavyweight David Verklin, hopes to overcome those issues by creating a "white label" system that standardizes addressable cable TV advertising in a way that can be easily purchased via a single insertion order. But that is still expected to take at least a year before it is deployed.

"To me, [the Invidi deal] is the most significant development for now," says Oscar.

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