There’s no real way to sugar-coat this. The once-ambitious Canoe Ventures has experienced what’s best described as corporate meltdown. It happens. The fact that the company will soldier without its core iTV mission may offer some consolation to the people who put so much blood, sweat and tears into Canoe since it launched in 2008. But it doesn’t change the simple fact that sometimes even the smartest, most dedicated execs can’t work miracles. Perhaps no company has tried to so dramatically change the TV advertising game than Canoe. And in an industry in which no two MSOs seem to do anything quite the same way, the idea that one entity—even one owned by those very operators—could overnight create a slick new platform out of the Byzantine tangle of cable wires out there was always a longshot. To be sure, Canoe had made enormous progress in connecting cable systems. But ad agencies never fully warmed to Canoe or exhibited much patience for the arduous pace of its product cycle. So it goes…
Canoe’s iTV pitch was never easy. It faced suffocating skepticism almost from the get-go. But you have to respect Canoe’s moxie. Even when Madison Avenue and the press criticized, former CEO David Verklin never lost his passion—right up until he got pushed out the door. And Kathy Timko valiantly took the mantle, working tirelessly to avoid what happened this week. But in the end, it just wasn’t enough. After four years of intensive work to figure out the back-end and get advertisers excited about the possibilities, Canoe’s main accomplishment was rolling out an RFI product that, frankly, just didn’t excite the marketplace enough. People wanted t-commerce. They wanted the sizzle and interactivity of the Web. What they got was a way to send a product sample via snail mail. It was a great start, but it just wasn’t enough to ignite the imaginations of those who plan and pay for ad campaigns. And even more difficult was convincing them to pay a premium besides.
None of this is to disparage the great work that Canoe and its NYC-based employees did over the years. Much good will come out of it. Cable operators learned a lot about how to connect systems and also started an important conversation with the advertising community. That conversation will continue to evolve in the future. Canoe’s work will not go untapped. And as the now Denver-based remnants of Canoe works on dynamic VOD advertising, perhaps iTV will creep back into the equation over time and in a way more palatable to Madison Avenue. But for now, cable must learn what it can from Canoe’s bold experiment and move on. Oh, Virginia… interactive advertising is coming. Someday.
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