TiVo Gears Up for Return To Advertising With Review

TiVo may provide a way for TV viewers to skip commercials, but the company itself is ready to get back to advertising.

The marketer of digital video recorders, which sources characterized as “on hiatus” from advertising and its agency, Omnicom’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, has launched a review as it prepares for a new ad push.

Goodby won the account in 2000, and by the following year, the ad budget was at a high of about $40 million. But spending started to decline in 2002, falling to $8 million and, last year, to a paltry $115,000 through November, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

In recent months, however, the San Jose, Calif.-based client expressed an interest in resuming its relationship with Goodby. But in January, Joe Uva, president and CEO of OMD, Omnicom’s media shop, joined TiVo’s board of directors, and the company decided it would be a conflict for any Omnicom agency, including Goodby, to handle the business.

After that, sources said, the client reached out to other shops. TiVo declined comment.

“I think it’s a bit of an overstatement to describe us as the incumbent” said Jeff Goodby, co-chairman and partner at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, noting that it had been more than a year since the agency produced any TiVo work.

Agencies believed to have met with the client, which is due to make a selection this month, include Interpublic Group’s Deutsch in Marina del Rey, Calif., independent Grant Scott Hurley, Publicis’ Publicis & Hal Riney and Havas’ Black Rocket Euro RSCG, all in San Francisco, as well as IPG’s Mullen in Wenham, Mass. It is believed that at least one of those agencies decided not to pursue the account.

Sources said the business will not be as big or as profitable as it was four years ago. The client is telling contenders its annual ad budget is $10-12 million, but the $1 million fee includes production costs.

TiVo is no longer demonized as the ad-industry killer it was portrayed as when the technology first emerged. Some marketers and agency executives have always seen TiVo as an opportunity more than a threat, as attested to by the presence of Uva and Coca-Cola media chief Chuck Fruit on the company’s board.

As the number of TiVo users in the U.S. tickles the 1 million mark (making up the bulk of the country’s estimated 1.5 million PVR users), the company has become an ad medium in its own right. In the last two years, TiVo has brought agency and network veterans on board to sell the system as a vehicle for sponsorship and promotion. Lexus, Best Buy, New Line Cinema and Sony Pictures have dabbled in its test efforts.