Cable TV and the Web: Cross-Media Advertising

Used to be offline media buyers had exclusive access to spots during the best TV shows, while Internet buyers were relegated to Web sites alone. Not anymore. Today, the marriage between cable TV and the Web has opened up a world of opportunities to interactive buyers pining for TV viewers. Whether it’s the audience of the “Iron Chef America: The Series” or “The American Kennel Club Championship,” cable TV is doing its part to enrich online placements.

Recall the partnership between Yahoo and “The Apprentice” to promote the business-oriented reality show online during the next two seasons. The arrangement ensures countless online advertisers can reach “Apprentice” viewers simply by patronizing Yahoo and requesting placement in that oh-so notable site section.

Trust me, it wasn’t just credit card companies and small-business vendors who were pleased as punch.

Now, other networks are getting into the game. They’re increasing loyalty by forging a deeper connection between viewer and program and expanding advertiser offerings online. How will online media buyers benefit? Let me count the ways.

Take the Food Network‘s recent series premiere of “Iron Chef America.” Until now, media buyers could do little online to reach the food-crazy audience who worships the quirky, original Japanese version, apart from making their presence felt throughout the Food Network site. Prior to launching its own series, the network was simply running a dubbed version in syndication.

With the spin-off’s launch, fans are now encouraged to participate in “Iron Chef Interactive.” The themed online wonderland features everything from the opportunity to vote on favorite menus and rate the show’s judges to chat with the famed chefs and partake in trivia games.

It’s all part of the Food Network’s effort to encourage cross-media multitasking and drive traffic to the show’s site.

The site section offers video clips, including TV spots with associated Flash-enabled medium rectangles. The “Iron Chef America” section presents a smorgasbord of opportunities. Kraft and Maxwell House have already signed on the dotted line. Both are running video footage preceding show clips, alongside associated standard rectangle ads.

Interactive buyers more interested in reaching dog lovers can take advantage of the Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet, a network available in over 86 million homes nationwide. Viewers of “The AKC Eukanuba National Championship” last week were repeatedly encouraged to visit the Animal Planet site to vote for their favorite dogs and determine the Iams Viewers’ Choice Awards. Results were announced after each competing group during both nights of the live event.

The Animal Planet site offers ample opportunity for buyers to target dog owners — even if show sponsors Procter & Gamble’s Eukanuba and Iams brands did have this particular event wrapped up.

According to the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society (SIQSS), the average Internet user spends 3 hours per day online, almost double the 1.7 hours he spends watching TV. If cable networks can turn that 1.7 hours into additional time spent online by driving TV viewers to their tailor-made Web sites, media buyers could just have the entire consumer market under their thumb.

With the playing field between TV and Internet buyers finally leveled, there’s no telling what we’ll manage to do.

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