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NBCU Takes Stake in Invidi

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NBC Universal has made a trial-balloon investment in addressable advertising firm Invidi Technologies Corp., making it the first network conglomerate to back the company. Invidi develops proprietary software that allows advertisers to target commercial content to individual set-top boxes.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the investment isn’t believed to be nearly as significant as earlier commitments from Google, GroupM, Menlo Ventures, Experian and Motorola.

The value of Invidi’s software lies in its potential to make TV advertising far more relevant, inasmuch as it allows clients to serve up customized copy to any polygon: retail trading zones, election districts, etc. A high-end automaker like Lexus or Mercedes-Benz could thereby target high-worth individuals rather than shotgunning copy to areas where residents are unlikely to be in the market for a luxury vehicle.

Naturally, the Grail is to feed copy to individual households. For example, if a third-party database suggests that a set-top box is deployed in a pet owner’s home, it would be in the best interest of a Ralston Purina or Iams to serve up their spots to that hard drive.

Invidi is not alone in the targeted-ad space; New York-based Visible World in July joined forces with Cadreon, a division of IPG’s Mediabrands, in a bid to bring the dynamic ad-serving capability of the Internet to cable TV. Meanwhile, after an addressable advertising product failed to leave the ground, Canoe Ventures is ready to offer an interactive ad service across a handful of cable networks.

Ten years in the offing, Invidi has begun securing partnerships with carriers, signing on with Verizon’s Fios TV back in March and readying similar deals with DirecTV and DISH Network. Invidi will go on-line with the satellite providers some time in the first quarter of 2011.

Last year, Comcast kicked the tires on the Invidi software in its Baltimore footprint. The test was backed by Starcom MediaVest; the initial results suggested that viewers of targeted spots were far less likely to turn the channel than consumers watching traditional auto-feed ads.

“As advertisers face a more complex ad environment we believe addressability has a high potential to enhance the return on their television expenditures and advance TV advertising as an even more compelling marketing vehicle,” said Mike Pilot, president, sales and marketing, NBCU. “This investment is one more step in our ongoing commitment to provide new advertising solutions for clients.”
 
NBC has not devised a schedule for rolling out its initial tests of the software. The investment in Invidi comes on the eve of a deal that would see Comcast acquiring control of NBCU.

Invidi in the last three years has raised north of $90 million in investment capital.