By Shirley Brady Advertisers are poised to direct more dollars than ever to cable—but not toward cable’s advanced television services. Alan Schulman, the former EVP/creative director of Universal McCann, launched the agency Brand New World with Alan Feldenkris, former VP of interactive marketing for AOL, to help clients develop cost-efficient ITV versions of traditional TV campaigns for addressable cable systems. Schulman, BNW’s chief creative officer, talked with CableWORLD about the potential of ITV advertising. CW: Is this year’s upfront a turning point for television? Schulman: Last year’s upfront left a bad taste in a lot of advertisers’ mouths, and in the past year they’ve seen the degradation of viewership and the statistics on ad-skipping. So they’re starting to say, "If I’m paying a premium for something that 50% of viewers are skipping in these households, what does that equal in dollars? Do I ask for a discount from my network, or do I look at other places to put that money?" CW: How can cable seize this opportunity? Schulman: The greatest offensive weapon that the cable industry has right now is to go out there and say, "We have the ability to target where, in 20 million homes, Comcast can get you to the sub-DMA level. So if you’re looking for high-net-worth households and you’re selling plasma-screen TVs, talk to us because the broadcast networks don’t have that capability." CW: What’s the pitch to advertisers? Schulman: As you are able to deliver through the cable interconnect to a specific DMA or a sub-DMA and target much more finitely your customer, then you not only increase the efficiency of your media buy, but you also make that commercial much more relevant to that target audience. That’s a great offense when people say they’re worried about PVR, TiVo and ad skipping. CW: How does your agency fit between the advertiser and the MSO? Schulman: We are a strategy and creative shop, and our mission is to help clients who want to get into the advanced media space. As an agency we’re ready to start creating these addressable commercials now for those advertisers who are at least interested in testing areas like addressable TV, interactive TV and unique broadband applications for advertising. CW: Why aren’t bigger agencies doing this? Schulman: We help advertisers whose agencies may not systematically be ready to create different scenarios for different DMAs and sub-DMAS, because that requires quite a broad systemic change from the way that creatives create commercials now. CW: You’re not espousing any particular technology? Schulman: No. There’s more than one addressable technology on the marketplace, and while interacting advertising firm Visible World works with Comcast and is also a client of ours, we will work with any addressable play. CW: What do you think of MSOs’ efforts so far in this space? Schulman: Cox is on the right track with ad-sponsored VOD in that they’ve chosen to take FreeZone from market to market, rather than scaling it in a larger sense. Comcast Spotlight is doing some tremendous things with Adtag/Adcopy and with the addressability play, and it’s definitely a priority for Comcast Spotlight president Charlie Thurston. CW: What do advertisers need from cable? Schulman: They are looking right now to get learning on how viewers are behaving in a content-on-demand environment. The click-stream data that the digital cable box will feed back to them is critical, assuming that it adheres to the 4As’ (American Association of Advertising Agencies) criteria. If cable operators deliver this data out of the box, then advertisers will really start to see why it makes sense to do more than stick their big toe into ad-sponsored VOD. CW: What can usage data show at this early stage in the game? Schulman: Advertisers need some sense of how viewers interact with content—in the way that Scripps has done so beautifully with HGTV On Demand and DIY On Demand—and really get some robust learning on how frequently people access content on demand, whether free or paid. CW: How much of this data should the cable operator share? Schulman: That’s an issue for the cable industry to work out, whether that’s through the CAB or NCTA or CTAM. My sense is it will come from CTAM’s On Demand Consortium. But what advertisers are waiting to hear is that they will share data. CW: How quickly do these issues need to get worked out? Schulman: There’s real urgency because if the MSOs don’t jump on board and decide what they’re going to do with sharing that data, they’re going to have their hands full with satellite. DirecTV is going to move quickly at offering interactive services, and they will be portaling advertisers over into that environment. And if there’s anything News Corp. knows how to do, it’s how to cross-sell different properties. CW: What’s one thing cable can do right away? Schulman: Don’t let engineering drive the back office. Cable operators need to invest in good research and analytics people to marry with the engineering back end so they can start to take those digital cable box logs and turn them into meaningful data.