The use of the set-top box as a cutting-edge advertising tool for tracking consumer behavior and eventually driving interactive advertising and marketing strategies is gaining momentum.

Interactive products being launched in EBIF, voting and polling functions, and collecting valuable data from consumers via the set-top are pushing initiatives such as the joint venture Canoe to develop cutting-edge technologies designed to exploit the far-reaching opportunities of addressable set-tops.

Set-top technology that will enable more precisely targeted marketing prompted a chorus of applause from the four panelists during Thursday’s session, "Advertising’s Great Enabler: Unleashing the Power of the Set-Top Box."

"We’re helping advertisers pick programs that will reach targeted audiences with cable, and the STB is making that possible," said Bill Harvey, president and co-founder of research company TRA. "And all of the data has enormous value."

Canoe is making some progress on the addressable advertising front as well, according to Mike Eason, Canoe’s chief data officer.

"Our first product is due out in a few months and will allow us to look at a national footprint," he said. "Interactive features could include a commercial where you click on a coupon and use it at a local retailer. We’re catching up with the Internet on the addressability component."

ESPN is one programmer catching up to the cutting-edge addressable technology, said Sean Bratches, executive vice president of sales and marketing for ESPN.

"We’re behind the cutting-edge technology and excited about the investment by our partners in interactive advertising," he said. "We are launching three interactive products, two in EBIF, along with voting and polling functions, because our sports fans look for lots of data. We’re looking forward to a national footprint. Ultimately, we all want to see this work."

And none more than MSOs such as Time Warner Cable. "EBIF is the perfect ratio, and the new STBs will give us opportunities to do new things," said Joan Gillman, executive vice president for Time Warner Cable media sales. "Let’s start by trying to get to scale. But it has been proven that customers are more inclined to engage with interactive TV."

And they will engage. Concluded Bratches: "We’re launching tru2way for Bottom Line that will allow sports fans to customize their own Bottom Line. And digital media related to the Internet is growing rapidly. But so is the TV platform."

– Craig Kuhl

Read more news and analysis on Communications Technology‘s Web site at

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