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Current TV Tries Democratizing Ads

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In yet another effort to address the alleged death of traditional advertising, Current TV—the short-form lifestyle network spearheaded by former Vice President Al Gore—has extended its "for the people, by the people" programming strategy to its ad model.

Tailored toward the network's young-and-restless, media-savvy audience, the still-developing platform does incorporate traditional sponsorships and 30- and 60-second spots, said Anne Zehren, San Francisco-based president of sales and marketing. Advertisers can lend their names to recurring program pods, so their products are connected with content—which ranges from music to technology, politics to spirituality. L'Oreal, Sony and Google are already onboard.

In terms of commercials, Zehren said that whether traditional spots, 5-second drop-ins or longer-form DRs, they always run as stand-alones during breaks. That means Current schedules "50 to 60 percent fewer ads" than other networks. That, she said, is the key to the most atypical part of its platform. Still in its early stages, Current plans to rely heavily on viewer-created ads; 25 percent of its editorial content is already submitted by viewers.

Consumer-crafted advertising is already common on the Web (see story, page 10). Joseph Jaffe, author of Life After the 30-Second Spot, said Current's model could provide a way for ads to become a "welcome gift" to viewers. The audience it is targeting, he said, is nonlinear, with short attention spans. When viewers become active participants, he said, ads "can migrate to the aesthetic of content."