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Q&A: Comcast Spotlight's John Vanderberg

John Vanderberg believes that his experience selling radio and its ancillary products have helped him as a salesman of bundled ad packages of TV, on demand and online products. For the last two years, Vanderberg has served as manager of advanced media sales for Comcast Spotlight in Denver. He oversees sales for the on-demand offerings, as well as, Vehix, Automotive Ad Network and On Demand Publishing. Vanderberg talked to Local Ad Sales about the new year and advance services. An edited transcript follows:

Q: What role will advanced services play with your local ad sales in 2009?

A: It will have a huge role for Comcast Spotlight. We saw significant growth in the category last year and we have big expectations this year as well. We can sell bigger and more expansive packages to our clients. We think the share of online sales will grow even if there is no overall advertising growth this year given the weak economy. Clients are telling us of their sales are coming from the Internet so they feel the need to shift more emphasis to online ads.

Q: Why are advanced services, particularly online sales, appealing to clients?

A: They like the idea of seeing response rates quickly and they like the flexibility that advanced services offer. We are doing more video banners and we have many back-end options that make reports more intuitive for the client. In a nutshell we can sell deeper and smarter.

Q: Are some clients/segments more bullish on online sales than others?

A: About half of our clients are asking about online sales and we’re educating the other half on what we can offer. But we’ve seen a mix of clients — retail, travel, hotel, leisure, furniture and sports teams, among others — take advantage of our online sales offerings and that has been a nice surprise. Car dealers like our services and of course, we have Vehix, which has been a strong lead generator for dealers.

Banner ads can provide brand and sales awareness and we can also deliver 30-second spots over the Internet as a sales option using Mixpo’s technology.

On the flip side, we still need to educate some of our clients and prospective clients on the opportunities we can provide. We’re trying to ask the right questions to see where we can uncover their needs. We have found that clients with strong Web sites do very well with online advertising because we can immediately direct consumers to their sites. It’s a great way to direct traffic.

Q: How do sell your advanced services?

A: Fortunately, we can use all our products to cross promote. We can use TV spots to promote a client’s on demand ad or online content. We’re all about bundling and our clients seem to like it. It gives them options and it opens doors and enables them to dabble in a new outlet without sacrificing traditional ways to advertise.

Q: Are clients asking for banner ads or better search results?

A: They want both. When done together, research has found that an advertiser’s results are better. We are currently talking to a couple of companies about partnering our local ad efforts to include a search option. I think it will be an important component for clients going forward.

Q: Are you dealing with clients directly or is most of your work conducted with agencies?

A: We have a good mix of clients. Some have no agencies and we deal with those folks directly. Some have agencies do some of their advertising, while they handle other parts.

We’re starting to see more agencies get interested in two-five minute vignettes, which are perfect for VOD. It can get complicated selling an integrated bundle when you have one agency taking care of one component for the client and another taking care of another component. For instance, a client may opt to handle a specific aspect of their advertising directly, while the leaving the rest to an agency. Or an agency may have different departments oversee different mediums. It doesn’t necessarily derail a deal, but it may take longer to get a deal done.

Still, we have some terrific agencies here in Colorado that see the value of advertising on different platforms and do a great job of making sure they include them in their packages. They are also good at making sure the creative works for each platform. They see the whole package and that is great. It’s our job to figure out how to make it easy and successful for the client. It all goes back to asking the right questions.