SPOTLIGHT ON: ADS ON VIDEOS: Can Carlton Sales turn home video into the new medium? - Are home video viewers an audience advertisers will want, Alasdair Reid asks?

What is the UK’s third most-watched commercial TV channel? No, not the multi-faceted Sky Television. And this isn’t a trick question about Channel 5.

What is the UK’s third most-watched commercial TV channel? No, not

the multi-faceted Sky Television. And this isn’t a trick question about

Channel 5.

The answer is home video. Not a lot of people know that. Not yet at any

rate - although Carlton UK Sales believes it is about to put that


Home video - and we’re talking about videos, mainly films, that people

have rented or bought, as opposed to time-shifted TV viewing - accounts

for 7 per cent of all commercial television viewing, which puts it third

after ITV (64 per cent) and Channel 4 (18 per cent).

Carlton’s point is that video is a massively under-exploited medium.

Last week it announced that it was going to give it some heavyweight

backing by shifting sales responsibility from Cinema Media - acquired

last year by Carlton - into the main Carlton Television sales operation

(Campaign, 10 January). The specialist Video Media unit, headed by

Richard Vinton, will now report to Carlton’s sales director, Steve


Carlton is the only company selling commercials on to video in the UK

and it has agreements with distributors which account for 70 per cent of

video viewing. Videos carry a maximum of four commercials, each one

running solus within the pre-film trailers. Demand is so low, however,

that only one film in three carries commercials.

So what’s been holding the medium back? Well, that’s obvious isn’t


Home video may account for a big chunk of viewing, but surely no-one

actually watches the trailers or the ads - they just fast forward to the

start of the show.

Not true, Vinton says. All ads, whether on broadcast, time shift, or

rented video, carry an electronic tag - and each time the ad is played,

the fact is registered on the Barb meter system. It measures not only

the fact that an ad has played back but notes whether it ran at normal

speed or on fast forward. And the figures show that, on average, more

that 70 per cent of viewers watch trailers and commercials at real-time


The Barb demographics look pretty good too. ’We score highly in the

16- to 34-year-old age group and we are surprisingly upmarket,’ Vinton


’We offer unique cover by delivering light TV viewers - we are a natural

extension to mainstream TV campaigns. There is a huge potential


One problem the medium has had in the past is that agencies and

advertisers didn’t know enough about it.’

Carlton - as it has done in the area of cable sales recently too - will

be able to gain access to senior buyers and clients. It has the ability

to make them listen. But will advertisers like what they hear?

Bill Barker, the broadcast director of J. Walter Thompson, is slightly

sceptical. ’We have used it on a limited basis,’ he reveals. ’In some

sectors, advertisers are keen and planners would be remiss if they

didn’t consider it. But there are a lot of clients who are not

receptive. Yes, it does have a value because people have paid to view -

and we appreciate the Barb figures on viewing. But what state of mind

are they in? You’re taking about 20 minutes of promotional material with

ads included too.

I’m not sure about the environment.’

Nick Theakston, the broadcast director of the Media Centre, is more

enthusiastic: ’There is real potential here,’ he says. ’For a start,

there is a great opportunity for creative ideas that tie in to the films

and there are below-the-line promotions - for instance in video shops -

that you can do on the back of it. It’s an example of the sort of little

add-on that can help a client’s communications package immensely,

doesn’t cost the earth, and can make a real difference. All the medium

needs is a higher profile. Having the weight of the Carlton sales team

behind it will help the medium immensely.’