The Death Knell for Interactive TV Advertising?

The decision by Canoe’s board to deep-six its interactive TV business will, inevitably, be seen as deadly blow to the whole concept of clickable TV spots (see Canoe To Shutter Interactive TV Ad Business, Lay Off 120).

There’s obviously some appetite among big-spending marketers to harness the power of ITV ads. But the lack of traction and ultimate demise of Canoe’s “request for information” and other ITV products shows that on a national level, the cable industry alone could not deliver the necessary scale and efficiency to ring the cash register.

But wait a second: There’s still plenty of ITV action in local markets.

Businesses ranging from car dealerships to retailers see interactive ads as a great way to reach prospective customers. And since they’re dealing with just one operator — and only on the local inventory that the MSOs control — the sales process is significantly easier than with Canoe RFI, which relied on cable network partners to sell the ITV features.

Comcast Spotlight, for one, touted the fact that last fall it had executed more than 1,000 ITV campaigns for clients, serving up more than 2.7 billion impressions to viewers (see Comcast Delivers More Than 2.7 Billion Interactive TV Ad Impressions). By contrast, Canoe had served just 35.3 million interactive overlays through September 2011 — and not all of those were even ads (see Canoe’s Orduña: 35.3 Million Interactive TV Overlays Served).

Cablevision and AT&T AdWorks have also claimed great results from interactive spots. “We have 100 car dealers running ads, and multiple campaigns,” David Kline, president and COO of Cablevision Media Sales, said on a panel at MCN/B&C’s OnScreen Media Summit in December. “I know they’re running because we’re getting leads.”

Newly appointed Canoe CEO Joel Hassell, formerly the venture’s CTO, apparently expected the market to conclude from the JV’s mothballing of the ITV products that interactive TV ads are dead. In his prepared remarks, Hassell said, “Cable’s ITV business will continue through the ad sales teams and video business units at the individual MSOs, as they pursue business opportunities with these capabilities within their own footprints.”

Meanwhile, there will also be the tendency to look at Canoe’s failures and think: Here we go again — another cable consortium that didn’t fly.

But for every Pivot and @Home, there’s a CableLabs and NCC Media that demonstrate multi-operator collaborations can work well.

Companies (and industries) try — and fail — to introduce new products all the time. Just because Canoe couldn’t push the national interactive TV advertising rock up the hill doesn’t mean joint ventures can’t succeed in other areas.

Canoe could become relevant, if it can learn from its past and build a workable, and high-scale, platform for dynamic ad insertion on VOD. That said, you can bet your bottom dollar that Canoe’s track record so far will make it far tougher to convince Madison Avenue to buy in to anything it does.


Programming Note:The future of interactive TV ads will be a key topic at next week’s Multichannel News/B&C’sAdvanced Advertising: Setting the 2012 Agenda, Feb. 29, 2012, in New York City. Scheduled speakers include Marcien Jenckes, Comcast SVP and GM of video services, plus Canoe Ventures’ Chris Pizzurro, GM of VOD advertising solutions, and executives from Avail-TVN, SeaChange, CNN, NCC, FreeWheel, GroupM and Rovi. Click here for more info: