Power to the :30

As we enter the New Year with leaner budgets and more scrutiny on spends, let’s remember that television continues as the most powerful advertising medium. In fact, in this challenging climate, smart marketers are looking to take advantage of commercial units in ways that deliver accountability, greater brand engagement and maximum ROI.

While the effectiveness of the “traditional” 30-second spot at times appears to be threatened by a plethora of technological advances, cable operators are now equipping advertising partners with innovations and creative solutions that enable interaction with viewers in ways previously unachievable. For example, at Cablevision we’ve developed the Power: 30SM, which uses the 30-second unit as the entry point into video on demand (VOD) and interactive television (ITV) channels dedicated to a specific advertiser, and provides marketers and agencies with addressable advertising and telescoping functionality.

Consumers can now view and interact with branded content on dedicated advertiser VOD channels, in ways akin to the Web experience, yet with a deeper, more emotional level of engagement. Marketers have always known that TV’s sight, sound and motion provide the most powerful means for creating new brand connections. In fact, the cable’s digital subs engage with these advertiser-branded channels for an average of six to 12 minutes at a time. This engagement, in many instances, starts with a 30-second ad.

Power :30s empower both consumers and advertisers. Starting with the :30, consumers can then spend as much time as they’d like with a brand-on demand and on their own terms — while being provided with user-friendly options that allow them to click a button on their remote to buy a product or service, engage in polling features, make a request for further information by sending prepopulated forms, or even request a live phone call from the advertiser in real time, providing a valuable, measurable, lead-generation tool to advertisers.

A great example of the Power :30 in action is Walt Disney Parks & Resorts’ Disney Travel on Demand channel. Via the channel, families can use their remote control to easily enjoy original, episodic series starring Disney talent and long-form, behind-the-scenes content from different Disney destinations. They can also easily request materials on several Disney theme parks and vacation plans via a simple drop-down menu featuring a prepopulated personal information screen.

And using the platform’s proprietary Talk To Agent feature, consumers can communicate directly with Disney travel representatives from the comfort of their homes, receiving a phone call to make all their travel arrangements. To date, approximately 25 percent of the viewers who have enacted this feature have booked vacations.

To date, more than 30 blue-chip national advertisers and many regional companies have used this new :30-based marketing tool which can also bring viewers to other forms of content and straight to linear channels, when combined with direct-tune capabilities. Of course, this is just the beginning for this type of engagement. With telescoping, customers are electronically forwarded to advertiser areas on TV, and addressability allows advertisers to send different versions of commercials to targeted demographic audiences. In the near future, consumers will be able to save content for future use, directly purchase goods and services from the TV and more.

So instead of entertaining the notion that the 30-second spot is dead — and the television medium along with I — -marketers must embrace the opportunities available to them through interactive cable technology. It is now enabling advertisers to take advantage of this empowered :30 to drive eyeballs to engaging, targeted, interactive, branded on-demand content and commerce.

We are in a very exciting era of television’s evolution, during which an incredible array of opportunities are possible. During the last three years, cable operators’ interactive and VOD platforms have been providing marketers with a unique window on consumers’ reactions to displayed content via detailed data regarding usage, the ability to sell brand values and move product. In fact, cable television now has the ability to cover and execute for marketers the complete continuum of awareness, consideration and purchase.

And as challenging economic times push advertisers to seek more accountability, measurability and return on investment, the Power :30 delivers all of these critical elements and, in some ways, surpasses Internet-delivered metrics.

They’re now engaging customers at record levels while simultaneously conducting what amounts to “in-home” focus groups, thus allowing marketers to continually optimize their consumer connections and communications.

So with the economy forcing agencies and advertisers to adopt what will likely be a common resolution in 2009 — do more with less — some savvy marketers are already receiving a measurably bigger bang for their ad-spend buck.

Barry Frey is svp, advanced platform sales for Cablevision Systems Corp.