Marketing

Canoe: Interactive Ads Are Open for Business

10/04/2010 4:36 AM Eastern

New York — David Verklin,
an ebullient Madison Avenue
pitchman, discovered that delivering
advanced TV advertising
across multiple cable operators
was a tougher nut to crack than
he’d expected.

But now, according to the CEO
of Canoe Ventures, the company
is in position to deliver interactive
spots on a nationwide basis to 25
million households by the end of
the year.

“If I had to do it over again,
I would have spent the time …
talking about the infrastructure
challenge,” said Verklin, speaking
at the event “Masters of the
Universe: Inside the Future of Interactive
Television” at the Paley
Center for Media, sponsored
by marketing-consulting firm
Brightline iTV.

He added, “We have spent the
last 24 months to get common
software in America’s set-tops to
deliver interactive ads.”

Verklin, in his first public
speaking appearance in about a
year, went into sales mode by urging
audience members to start
running interactive spots. He said
five cable networks — Rainbow
Media’s AMC; Comcast Networks’
E! and Style; Discovery Channel;
and two NBC Universal networks
— are currently taking orders for
Canoe’s interactive request-forinformation
overlays.

“Call them up this afternoon,”
he said. “We’re delivering national,
interactive ads today.”

Verklin said he had not spoken
about Canoe recently because “I
felt it was important that the first
time I came out to speak was to
talk about what we have done
and what we are doing, instead
of what we plan to do.”

Canoe announced it was working
with those four programming
groups and began running its
first RFI spots this summer. The
venture is owned by the six largest
U.S. cable operators: Comcast,
Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications,
Charter Communications,
Cablevision Systems and
Bright House Networks.

Verklin said the JV is targeting
the top 200 spenders in advertising
and said the RFI spots will
give cable programmers the opportunity
to “take money away
from direct-mail marketing.” He
claimed the ability to let TV viewers
opt in to order product samples
is far more effective than
other mechanisms, such as street
teams or newspaper wrappers.

Even unclicked overlays perform
better than non-interactive
ads, Verklin added, offering an
increase in engagement of up to
100%. “That ad makes you lean
forward,” he said, explaining
why he doesn’t believe pay-perclick
pricing reflects the full value
of ITV ads.

Canoe is delivering interactive
spots using CableLabs’ Enhanced
TV Binary Interchange Format, or
EBIF. The industry is looking to
establish “SelecTV” as the brand
for EBIF to advertisers, agencies,
programmers and consumers.

By year-end, Canoe is eyeing
the ability to deliver ITV ads to 25
million households with EBIFenabled
set-tops, largely within
the Comcast and Time Warner
Cable footprints. That’s out of an
estimated 104 million multichannel
households in the U.S., roughly
two-thirds of which are cable
homes, according to Verklin.

Separately, Cablevision Systems
recently rolled out EBIF support
to its 2.9 million digital-cable
subscribers, and Canoe is in the
process of working with the MSO
on “pipe cleaning” to be able to
deliver interactive spots, according
to the joint venture.

History of Canoe Ventures to date:

June 2008: Six cable operators announce the New York-based joint venture and hiring of CEO David Verklin, former CEO of Aegis Media Americas
June 2009: Canoe suspends plans for initial zone-addressable ads, citing business and technical hurdles
December 2009: Interactive request for information (RFI) launch pushed to spring 2010
May 2010: "SelecTV" announced as consumer-facing brand for EBIF
June 2010: First RFI ads launched with four programming groups in Comcast, Time Warner Cable systems
SOURCE: Multichannel News research

September