TiVo to Showcase Ads

TiVo is launching an advertising gallery in the hope that its subscribers will choose to view compelling commercial content and program promotions before they erase their chosen recorded material.

Advertising heavyweights General Motors, Master­Card Worldwide and Burger King are participating in Program Placement, TiVo's new digital video recording product, along with cable programmers The Weather Channel and Court TV.

Typically, when TiVo viewers complete a recorded program, a dialog screen appears to inquire whether the subscriber wishes to delete the just-viewed program, or archive it. Now, on that dialog screen, the user will be invited to enter the “TiVo Showcase” to watch ads, program promotions or long-form videos. For instance, Burger King has created a promotional video for its exclusive Xbox 360 game, featuring its commercial characters, the King and Subservient Chicken.

TiVo executives believe the new advertising methodology is an effective counterattack against fast-forwarding through ads in recorded programs. They note that the Program Placement ads are measurable, so all clients that use the program will have access to TiVo's audience measurement reporting, including program and commercial viewership research.

Craig Woerz, co-founder and managing partner of Media Storm, The Weather Channel's agency, noted how difficult it is to capture the attention of DVR users.

“This [new product] is just scratching the surface. It's just the best product to date. We're all about garnering views,” he said.

Even if a TiVo user doesn't opt to view the ad or program promotion, sponsors make an impression on that user as the subscriber navigates the showcase area, he noted.

He could not predict how many DVR users would actually click into the additional content, noting that response rates vary widely depending on the environment in which the content is offered. Woerz said he was unaware of the development of a similar product for DVRs offered by cable companies, noting that DirecTV and EchoStar's Dish Network have been the most aggressive in the development of DVR advertising applications.

The Weather Channel is using the new advertising application to promote Abrams and Bettes — Beyond the Forecast. That series launched six weeks ago, promoted with traditional marketing tactics, but the TiVo applications will give the program new exposure, said senior vice president of marketing Lynn Brindell.

The channel is expanding its brand, moving beyond the image of a “utility,” offering temperatures and weather predictions, into more weather-related entertainment, she noted. Abrams and Bettes is emblematic of that, and the DVR advertising platform provides a very effective way of generating exposure.

Brindell said TiVo viewers of top-rated dramatic shows can opt in to a two-minute, behind-the-scenes profile, demonstrating what the two meteorologists go through in the field to report on the weather. The short will begin appearing in TiVo downloads Dec. 7 and will be available for four weeks.

“When this opportunity first came to us, I saw it as analogous to upselling at the point of purchase,” she said. Viewers have already acquired quality programming and if The Weather Channel can put its programming in the same context, and get the names and faces of its talent out there, “then it's a win for us,” she said.