BY RICK HOWE
I was chatting over breakfast with a friend not long ago, and he was bemoaning the fact that our current TV Everywhere advertising model just annoyed him. The night before he was on the train, catching up on ABC's "Quantico" on his phone; an older episode--four or five weeks maybe. And it was loaded with the standard selection of ads that were locked into the stream: no skip, no fast-forward--just sit and suffer.
He said, "You know, I can almost tolerate those ads on my TV at home, because I can do something else while the ad is running. But on my mobile, I'm trapped. And I guess my tolerance of advertising on my mobile is significantly less than my tolerance of advertising in my living room."
It's that form factor thing, y'know? We use mobile differently for video. Cramming a traditional television experience into the smartphone doesn't work.
My friend (who's in the business, by the way) said, "Why can't we fix this? Why can't I get an ad that actually means something to ME, and skip all the rest."
He was holding his phone. I said, "The answer is in your hand. That device knows everything about you. And the advertisers, the networks and the distributors all agree with you. Somebody needs to show them the way."
Somebody IS listening. Our friends at Amdocs have responded to my friend's questions with the creatively named "Project Quantico." And they will be doing demonstrations this spring at various shows and conferences.
It works like this:
Herb is a family guy, and he's in the market for a new family sedan.
He has been searching on his phone for information about mid-size sedans, and among the sites he's looked at is Kelley Blue Book.
Herb is an MVPD subscriber and he was pinged the other day with an intriguing offer: he could "opt-in" to a test program that would give him the option of watching a single relevant commercial in selected TV Everywhere sessions, and then skip all the rest of the ads. Secure software would scan some of his activities on his device, and when a commercial was available that complemented his activities, he'd be given the option of watching that instead of all the other spots. Nobody would ever see his activities, and the only way he would come up on anybody's radar is if he selected the ad to watch.
So he agreed to the program, and here's what happened. The next time Herb was on the train to New York, he went to his provider's site to catch up on a recent episode of "The Big Bang Theory." And just before the show started, he was given this message:
So Herb watched the Toyota spot and enjoyed the rest of the show commercial-free.
He even played with the "Build Your Own Toyota" app at the end, and made contact with his local Toyota dealer (complete with navigation instructions).
And now the local Toyota dealer knows who Herb is, and that he's in the market for a new Toyota Avalon.
Amdocs says there are a few key components to this program:
1) The distributor has to have digital ad insertion capability (pretty much a given).
2) The content owner has to agree to let the distributor replace the ad load with a single personalized and targeted ad (similar things have been done before).
3) To get started, C7 or later programs make more sense. The audience is lower, to be sure. But the expectations for significant ad revenue after seven days are lower as well. Amdocs wants to know what percentage of viewers, when given the option, take it. And with that information in hand, the industry can have meaningful conversations about moving the window up.
There is nothing here that we don't know how to do. In fact, the good people at Hulu have been giving viewers the option to "watch this ad, skip the rest" for a while now. But in the minds of consumers, that is basically a form of "pick your poison"--none of the options is targeted to the viewer. The trick is matching the huge pool of user data with the capability to deliver results that work. And that's what Amdocs does.
Keep your eyes on Amdocs at upcoming shows: INTX, TVOT
and others. They're doing some interesting stuff.
The iTV Doctor is Rick Howe, who provides interactive video consulting services to programmers, advertisers and technology providers. He is the recipient of a CTAM Tami Award for retention marketing and this year was inducted into The Cable Pioneers. He is also the co-author of a patent for the use of multiscreen mosaics in EPG's. Endorsed by top cable and satellite distributors, "Dr" Howe still makes house calls, and the first visit is always free. His services include product development, distribution strategy and the development of low-cost interactive applications for rapid deployment across all platforms.
Have a question for the iTV Doctor? Email him at TheiTVDoctor@gmail.com