Carat to Spearhead Development of iTV Industry Coalition

Online media planner and buyer Carat Interactive aims to move into the nascent interactive TV space with the creation of a consortium of advertisers and iTV providers.

Carat Interactive, a unit of the offline media buying giant Carat Group, said the new ITVision industry group will address coming questions about interactive TV, including how consumers will respond to it, how to create and sell effective iTV advertising, and how to measure campaign success.

The group, whose membership list will be finalized next quarter, will be comprised of “leading consumer companies” and is slated for a second-quarter 2001 launch, with the aim of understanding the power of Interactive TV and driving its adoption.

The group hasn’t disclosed who it’s working with, though a spokesman said it would feature a maximum of eight consumer-oriented companies, in addition to equipment manufacturers, service providers, content developers and ad agencies.

“Our goal will be for each community stakeholder to play a role in our iTVision consortium,” said Carat Interactve’s Brian Cavoli who holds the title of “director of innovation” at the Boston-based firm. “Interactive television will remain merely interesting technology until it’s adopted and put to use by advertisers. It is our hope that the consortium will spur the community to work together to generate understanding and enthusiasm among advertisers.”

Through the consortium, Carat Interactive said it plans a structured, formalized test and evaluation of the best iTV advertising opportunities and practices. The program will monitor consumer behavior and establish benchmarks and success metrics to be used as the foundation for future media and advertising strategies — similar to the way the Internet Advertising Bureau and its Wireless Advertising Association develop standards and best practices for Web and mobile media.

As with the IAB and WAA, participants in Carat’s program will benefit from experience with iTV applications and will get a first-hand look at findings on the medium’s potential — and getting to know other exectives at the group’s member companies won’t hurt, either.

The launch of Carat Interactive’s iTVision consortium comes as broadcast, production and technology firms are exploring digital services and broadband applications.

Already, content production outfits like New York’s Cylo are working with iTV companies, while the major ad networks all have partnerships with iTV technology firms. Ad network 24/7 Media actually runs its own broadband services division, which handles iTV and broadband media distribution and management.

As a result, advertisers and media buyers will face more choice in the months and years ahead, as broadband and interactive TV adoption increases.

“Interactive television will create new opportunities for advertisers to target specific audiences, and generate immediate response. iTV will be a more memorable experience than the basic lean-back commercial experience,” said Carat Interactive president Sarah Fay. “It will therefore be a contributor to brand enhancement, as well as a direct response tool.”

The formation of the group is also pretty good publicity for Carat and its interactive unit, which launched early this year.

“Television is the biggest and most important advertising medium in the world. The future of television and iTV are of great interest to Carat and Carat Interactive,” said David Verklin, chief executive of Carat North America. “That future will be built on interactivity. While interactivity has been closely identified with the Internet, we believe that the Internet is just one of several potential interactive platforms.”

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