Optimizing Classified Ads

Barry Frey has sold National Basketball Association stars and top-rated programming on USA Network, relishing the challenge of marrying content to fit an advertiser’s need.

Now, he’s doing the same thing as point person for Cablevision Systems Corp.’s classified video-on-demand channels.

The operator launched Optimum Auto, which allows automobile dealers and consumers to sell cars through iO: Interactive Optimum, and Optimum Homes, which lets real estate agents sell homes using a video, picture and text-based interactive VOD service.

The content, itself, is advertising driven, and Cablevision last year tapped Frey as senior vice president of Cablevision Advanced Platforms to sell the service to national and regional advertisers as well as their agencies.

Frey is no newcomer to selling new types of media. At Crown Media Holdings Inc., where he was senior vice president of global media sales, Frey was responsible for creating the first digital product-placement agreements on television.

At the NBA, Frey oversaw the development of multiplatform advertiser agreements.

What intrigues him about VOD “is that what we’re offering combines many elements of marketing. It has the advertising component, the direct-marketing component, a brand and entertainment value and great public relations. We’re able to offer advertisers many elements of the marketing mix.”

For instance, Cablevision viewers can visit Optimum Auto and see pictures and access video of cars that interest them. Information on make, model, price and other car features are available. Consumers can also find out what local dealers can provide a test drive. The process allows car dealers to generate sales leads of customers interested in buying the product.

Frey notes that advertisers need several pieces of information to start advertising on VOD. “They are seeking to understand their return on investment and engagement with their advertising,” Frey said. “There is a tremendous amount of learning going on.”

Consumers seem to like the content. According to Frey, more than half the Optimum customers have used the auto classified section since it launched last year.

Two recent deals highlight what Cablevision’s auto classified VOD service has done for Ford Motor Co. The automobile manufacturer is running two separate campaigns on the VOD service, for Ford Explorer and Ford Fusion.

The Ford Explorer campaign features a contest to win tickets to the Ironman triathlon, as well as sports content about triathletes. It’s geared for families and an older 25-to-54 demographic.

The Fusion promotion is geared to a younger demographic. Its VOD campaign features auto information plus music videos from a Norwegian rock band.

Frey believes the one-step lead generation that VOD affords is key to advertisers. “With a touch of a button, your information goes right to the advertiser,” he said. “With the Internet, you have to register and sometimes it is an arduous task.”

Frey said he can’t share results from the campaign for Ford, which sees VOD usage numbers on a monthly basis. But he said “they are learning a tremendous amount even about their own product, with how people consume videos. They know what videos work, how long they stayed, which videos people loved, who rewinds and who fast forwards.”

Cablevision wants to branch out into other sectors. “We’re talking to pharmaceutical companies,” Frey said. “They need to communicate a lot of data,” and VOD affords them that opportunity.

The MSO is also exploring film trailers and movie studios.

Travel and how-to are two other categories Frey plans to address.

“We’ve worked with some travel advertisers” on a test basis, he said. The thought is to give a travel company an entire VOD channel to showcase travel destinations with video.

Most VOD ad commitments on the auto channel are for three months, Frey said, but he declined to say how much revenue Cablevision is generating, as advertisers get both VOD placement and linear TV spots.

VOD advertising does not follow the traditional cost-per-thousand model, Frey said. The value is in the metrics, such as total visits, views, rewinds and fast forwards. “That’s the data that people are valuing. It’s a new set of economic rules.

“We have more activity than we imagined,” Frey continued. “With our VOD packages, advertisers get regular schedules on Cablevision and the New York Interconnect.” Those linear ads point viewers to the VOD section, where they can get more information.

“This year will be a very exciting for us,” Frey said. “with our ability to deliver these dedicated channels in entertainment and travel, and the continuing traction with Optimum Autos and Homes.”