Serious buzz about multichannel video advertising

Tuesday, October, 4 2011

In the ‘hood: Cox taps Visible World for targeted TV effort

By: Stewart Schley Tuesday, October, 4 2011

Another large U.S. cable company is moving closer to addressable advertising deployment, as Cox Communications Inc. has signed on with New York-based Visible World to make use of a web-based platform allowing advertisers to direct customized creative to specific neighborhoods.

In an announcement being released today, Visible World says Cox, the fifth-largest U.S. pay TV provider, will use Visible World’s Conductor platform to whisk variations of ad copy among a range of geographic zones served by Cox’s systems in markets like San Diego , Las Vegas and Providence, R.I . Cox’s video services reach about 5 million subscribing homes, according to statistics published by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

Unlike Visible World’s previously announced arrangement with Cablevision Systems Corp. in NYC, this one doesn’t involve household or set-top addressability, at least for now. Instead, Cox and its representatives will arm selected advertisers with web-based tools enabling them to vary commercial content by zones – the prescribed video-serving areas within Cox’s broader local footprints.

While that’s been possible before, the Visible World deal now delivers greater control to advertisers by giving them the ability to orchestrate what commercials play across particular Cox zones through a central system that’s linked to Cox’s cable advertising and traffic operations. Using the Visible World platform, advertisers can align specific ad variations with zone characteristics such as age and income levels, explained Tania Yuki, VP, Advertiser Solutions for Visible World. As an advertiser, “You’re actually using Conductor to get the right spot to the right headend,” she said.

Category appeal
Yuki, a media industry veteran who previously managed comScore’s online video measurement service, says there are profound demographic differences within the world of zoned cable advertising. An example: Even though the split between technology enthusiasts and technology traditionalists across a particular television DMA at large might be roughly even, within certain zones Yuki says it’s common to find extremely lopsided ratios. “Some zones will show 80-20 mixes, some 90-10,” she said.

Knowing that, Visible World thinks the Conductor platform will play particularly well for clients with a variety of brand or product variations. Among them: auto makers with multiple nameplates or financial services companies attempting to align investment products with consumer income brackets. “Basically anyone who scales lots of versions of ads and wants to do smart targeting,” she says.

One other category she thinks can make immediate use of the platform: cable TV.

“Probably our biggest vertical right now is the cable marketers themselves,” she said. That’s because cable companies are looking for more efficient ways to align product availability and appeal with customer demographic segments and neighborhoods. A ready mechanism for managing campaigns can help, she says.

We’ll be intrigued to see exactly how an at-the-fingertips resource for slinging commercials across zones ends up playing out. One big question is how expansive advertisers will end up being with creative variations of commercials. Yuki says a bit of restraint is probably a good idea. “I think you can get carried away,” she said. “Just because you can create 500 versions of a commercial doesn’t mean you should.” She suspects many advertisers will settle on a handful of content variations, even though the Visible World system can scale to accommodate more.

The Visible World-Cox deal also underscores the fact that much the innovation going on today in targeted TV advertising flows across the local cable advertising environment, which is uniquely capable of addressing particular spots to particular groups of homes. While that alone is nothing new – discrete zoned ad placement has been in place at the local level for years – it’s relatively new for large-scale advertisers with national or multi-region reach.

“When you think about innovation in television advertising, people don’t automatically think, ‘local cable.’ But the irony is that’s really where it is,” Yuki said.

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