Serious buzz about multichannel video advertising

Glossary of Terms

DIGITAL VIDEO INSERTION : The placement of commercials into cable or multichannel video program streams using storage and server equipment that translates video content into the binary code of computing. Digital ad insertion systems, now common in the cable advertising industry, originated in the 1990s as an alternative to cumbersome and sometimes-unreliable tape-based insertion systems.

DYNAMIC VOD ADVERTISING: It’s not that VOD advertising isn’t compelling, or “dynamic” in its own right. But here the term refers to the ability to customize the advertising messages appearing within video-on-demand program streams requested by TV viewers. Early in the medium’s development, commercials typically were hard-coded into VOD programs – meaning anybody who ordered a particular episode of a show saw the same commercial. Dynamic VOD advertising allows providers to send different commercial messages to different viewers, depending on household demographic characteristics and other indicators. The behind-the-scenes process is complicated, and bringing scale to its deployment has been challenging, but dynamic VOD advertising remains a signature cause for the cable advertising industry, and its availability is steadily rising.

EBIF : Some of the most promising interactive TV advertising concepts revolve around an odd-sounding technology called EBIF, for Enhanced Binary Information Format. Invented by the cable industry’s research and development arm, CableLabs, it’s a compact but powerful software specification that’s embedded in millions of cable television set-top receivers, and can support some interesting enhancements to traditional (read: passive) TV commercials.

EBIF makes commercials come alive by inviting viewers to respond to what they’re seeing and hearing on the screen. Typically, EBIF-powered commercials include graphic overlays that occupy a small footprint within the total TV screen. Those overlays can do several things. They can invite viewers to request more information about an advertised product – a new sedan, let’s say – by pointing their TV remote control at the screen and clicking. A few days later, a glossy brochure might arrive at the mailbox, or a representative from a local dealership might call with an invitation for a test-drive.

EBIF applications that appear on the TV screen also can invite viewers to find out more information about products or services through longer-form video presentations that appear on the screen shortly after an EBIF overlay is selected. These so-called telescoping applications whisk viewers to an associated video-on-demand program that might offer a virtual tour of our sedan’s interior, for instance. EBIF also supports instant viewer polls that can be tied to advertising campaigns or sponsored contests. There’s little limit to the creativity advertisers can employ to more deeply engage viewers using the interactive TV platform known as EBIF. It supports local and national ad campaigns, so there’s no geographic limit on its suitability.

INTERCONNECT : A collective array of cable and multichannel video providers, typically operating within a common metropolitan or market area, that collaborate to distribute advertisements to more households than any single provider could deliver. Interconnects, which typically offer a single point of sale to advertisers, are designed to overcome complications associated with the geographic fragmentation of the multichannel video industry.

LOCAL AVAIL: The time allotted by national/regional cable networks for local advertisements sold and placed by local cable/multichannel video companies. Most national cable networks offer 2 or 3 minutes of local avails per hour. These time slots are the core asset for cable’s local advertising business.

RFI (Request for Information): A technique for allowing interested viewers to proactively request brochures, catalogs and other follow-up information about products and services they see advertised on television. Using a double opt-in invitation (viewers must affirm they’re interested in more information, and then again verify they’d like it to be sent), RFI offerings are an interesting alternative to legacy direct-mail techniques that push materials to individuals who may or may not be interested in them. RFI was the first national-footprint enhanced advertising product to be introduced by the cable industry’s advanced advertising company, Canoe Ventures.

TELESCOPING : A relatively new technique for enhancing traditional TV commercials with deeper-dive video content that offers demonstrations and explanations of advertised products and services. Telescoping leverages the abilities of video-on-demand infrastructure. When a viewer clicks for more information on a Telescope-enhanced commercial, she/he is actually evoking a discreet video-on-demand stream from a server array maintained by a cable or multichannel video provider. At home, the viewer sees a (typically) 3- to 5-minute video that relates to the original advertisement. Proponents say Telescoping is effective in conveying detailed product information to self-selecting, highly engaged viewers, resulting in a significantly higher propensity to buy.