How does cable keep viewers glued to their wares when their favorite shows take that dreaded commercial break? One idea: networks and cable ops must master the new art of "break architecture" to gauge the best ad presentation, the right number of ads in a commercial pod, how you lead into a break, etc. That was one takeaway from CTAM‘s "Rules of Engagement" event in NY Thurs. Master the commercial break, and "you’re now as good as the creative advertisers come up with," said WE.tv svp, ad sales Scott Collins. That involves creating ad-content partnerships that engage viewers in multiple media, incorporating VOD, online ( MySpace, Facebook and other social sites) and mobile, said Piazza Advertising CEO Hope Fulgham. "People are driving where your brands are and the next level you will get to," she said. However, several panelists said operators and programmers shouldn’t feel pushed into micromanaging ads, with advertisers and agencies shouldering responsibility for keeping viewers engaged. "You want a better environment? Make better commercials," one attendee remarked. A few consensus predictions: C3 will be sacked in a year or 2 for a better ratings process involving set-top box data; new ad formats will be required for VOD to maintain and build viewership, and more use of user-generated messages and limited-interruption content will be needed. — Simon Applebaum

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