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Q&A: Tom Straszewski, Comcast Spotlight

Comcast Spotlight is pairing up with Mixpo, an online video advertising company that serves the small and medium-size business market, to turn clients’ existing on-air video advertising assets into online video advertising units. Tom Straszewski, Comcast Spotlight senior director of online sales, said the partnership will give local ad executives the ability to better bundle ad packages for clients. Straszewski has over 15 years of advertising sales experience within the cable TV industry. Prior to joining Comcast Spotlight, he served as director of new product sales with Adelphia Media Services, and was responsible for building out Adelphia's advanced television and online sales initiatives. He also held various sales management positions with AT&T, TCI, Century, and Rainbow/Cablevision. Straszewski spoke with Local Ad Sales contributor K.C. Neel about the Mixpo partnership and how it will help both AEs and local clients expand their reach to consumers.  An edited transcript follows:

Q: How will this partnership work?

A: We are making a strong push to enable our local ad sales executives to sell bundled products. This partnership enables them to push our digital products. Our core business is strong with cable. We are selling some display ads on a couple of sites we own. With this partnership we can leverage our existing sales so that local advertisers who buy on-air spots from us can add banner video ads online.

Q: Where will advertisers be able to put their video ads online?

A: They can buy space on our home page -- -- or Or, based on their needs, we can target specific channels. The ads are placed based on geography so if you are a local advertiser, your ads will be seen in your market. If we have an auto dealer in Atlanta, for instance, we can take his 30-second spot and either run it as is or edit so that it can be seen on TV or online by consumers.

Q: Do you already offer local online advertising?

A: We have a partnership with Yahoo for national ad placement and we hold back a certain percentage for the local sellers. Clearly, Comcast high-speed data customers are the main audience, but you don’t have to be a subscriber to see the local ads. You just to go to the site.

Q: What was the driving force in teaming up with Mixpo?

A: The escalating need to prove value with our clients was a key reason. Mixpo enables us to embed current video assets and encode them into Mixo technology and insert them online. It also gives us robust trackability and backend functions. We were also impressed with Mixpo’s Dashboard tracking product, which lets clients measure how a video ad is performing by tracking the number of impressions and views, play-throughs and conversion, viewers’ geographic locations, and referring sites. It’s very thorough and very robust. Our clients are increasingly wanting measurable data and this provides it to them. At the heart of it, we chose to work with Mixpo because of the ease of use of their products.

Q: Are local ad clients clamoring for online opportunities?

A: Absolutely. We’ve realized significant growth in online sales in 2008 and we expect similar growth in 2009.

We’re a medium that focuses on constantly being in front of our clients and we have developed deep partnerships with our local advertisers. We are pushing advertising bundles and we are also always helping them figure out ways to take advantage of our digital suite of products on-air, on demand and online. There is a certain level of hand-holding with the some clients when it comes to online advertising and we have conducted extensive training with our local ad executives so they can properly sell the advantages of online advertising as well as all our digital products.

Some of our advertisers are very sophisticated and understand the opportunities of marrying multiple platforms in their ad campaigns. Some smaller businesses are just getting into the digital space and need a bit more hand-holding.

Q: What have you done to prepare your local advertising staff for this product offering?

A: All 4,200 of our local employees have gone through an extensive formal certification training program for online sales. They have very rigorous testing standards and role playing activities they must go through and they have to immerse themselves in the product.

Q: Are there some advertising segments that are more naturally drawn to online advertising?

A: Automotive dealers are our No. 1 users of online, followed by entertainment businesses, retail/furnishings and restaurant and travel-related firms. Our customer base tends to be higher educated, earns more and has more disposable income. So advertisers looking for those demographics find online advertising with Comcast Spotlight very attractive.