Will Adnet, a sales house for the cable giant, be the answer, Alasdair
One of the beauties of sending TV pictures down a wire is that, if
you’ve got whizzy enough electronics, you can work out who’s watching -
or at least, which sets are on and which channels they are showing. The
interactive technology that allows you to do this is supposedly one of
cable’s trump cards. It not only helps extend viewer choice but could be
an important factor for the advertising and marketing industry.
TeleWest, the UK’s largest cable operator, intends to play that card for
the first time. Last week it announced that it was launching a sales
house, called Adnet, to sell local advertising slots across the 500,000
homes covered by its 21 cable TV networks (Campaign, 13 September).
Channels carried on cable - with the exception of those controlled by
BSkyB - must hand over a minimum of one minute per hour of their
advertising airtime to the cable operators, who can then sell
advertising opportunities. So far, sales have been handled locally on a
network-by-network basis. Adnet will pool TeleWest’s local expertise and
try to provide a one-stop shop for advertisers.
Adnet also hopes to pick up sales tasks from rival cable operators and
will even pitch to handle sales for cable-only TV stations that don’t
wish to sustain the costs of their own sales operations. In short, it
aims to put cable sales on a more professional footing.
Not before time, some might argue. Especially those at a top London
agency whose planners recently asked cable network owners to sell them
some ideas about fitting cable into client plans. The agency was
dismayed when only a couple responded. ‘They did nothing more than quote
audience penetration figures and costs per thousand. It wasn’t exactly
what we had in mind,’ a senior planner at the agency in question says.
Suffice to say that buyers in the market have generally been
underwhelmed by cable’s sales performance so far. Adnet, headed by
TeleWest’s sales director, Steven Stokes, intends to sell cable’s USP
more effectively. The Adnet system, he says, will soon allow advertisers
to define audiences by their postcodes - an accurate demographic
targeting technique already used to great effect in the direct mail
Do agencies welcome this initiative? Cable ad revenue has been forging
ahead, TeleWest alone expects ad sales to increase by 50 per cent a year
for the next few years. Is this too optimistic? Can Adnet harness the
Andy Zonfrillo, the broadcast director of Leo Burnett, says it will be a
step in the right direction. ‘We would certainly welcome this
initiative, particularly the targeting proposition. We are always
interested in getting specific messages to specific people,’ he states.
David Cuff, the broadcast director of Initiative Media, agrees.
‘Database marketing has a huge cost per contact but it is fully
accountable - you know exactly who and what you’re getting,’ he points
out. ‘TV suffers from not being at all accountable, so the TeleWest
initiative will definitely interest advertisers.
‘The only drawback is that cable doesn’t have the ratings. Arguably you
can learn a lot and scale that response up to the rest of TV, but you
would have to remember that cable is a very different environment from
broadcast TV. Cable viewers behave differently.
‘As for the broad opportunity offered by cable, I can’t see national
advertisers building a campaign using local cable opt-outs. Advertisers
whose only alternative is local newspapers will find it an increasingly
attractive option and it will offer them good value. For mainstream
advertisers it’s still a thing of the future. It will happen, but cable
must have a far bigger share of audience before they begin to look at it