MEDIA: SPOTLIGHT ON; CABLE AD SALES: Can TeleWest make cable TV a truly competitive medium?

Will Adnet, a sales house for the cable giant, be the answer, Alasdair Reid asks

Will Adnet, a sales house for the cable giant, be the answer, Alasdair

Reid asks



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

business.



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

medium’s potential?



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

really seriously.’



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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).