Could Mediabrands Pact with Navic Help Float Canoe?

A deal in which four Interpublic Group units will buy cable TV ad inventory from operators working with Microsoft-owned Navic Networks could push Navic’s technology to the forefront of the cable industry’s ad targeting efforts.

Navic, a targeting platform for TV ads and content, struck up the strategic partnership with IPG’s Initiative, Universal McCann, MAGNA and Emerging Media Lab, four units grouped together by the holding company under the Mediabrands division. Under the deal, the agencies and their clients will gain access to Navic’s ad optimization solutions, including Admira, Navic’s national media service.

The Mediabrands companies are committing to buy at least $1 million in ad inventory, hoping the Navic technology will enable them to determine TV ad placement criteria and buy time during programs that match those criteria.

Initiative, Universal McCann, MAGNA and the Emerging Media Lab “have agreed to pledge significant financial and human resources” to current and future inventory accessed through Admira,” said a statement announcing the deal.

In an interview, MAGNA Senior VP and Director of Industry Analysis Brian Wieser said he finds the most interesting aspect of the deal to be the way it “ties into” Canoe Ventures, the ad targeting initiative formed in January by Comcast Corp, Time Warner Cable Inc, Cablevision Systems Corp., Charter Communications Inc., Cox Communications and Bright House Networks. Canoe is hoping to become a platform that enables interactive and targeted television ads using information gleaned from cable boxes about programs being viewed.

“What Canoe is doing ultimately, from our vantage point, is pushing forward the possibilites of what television can do,” said Wieser. “For our largest advertisers, who primarily need to reach everyone, television remains the single most important medium. But the way TV is bought and sold hasn’t really changed too much in decades.”

Wieser said advertisers continually say they like the accountability, dynamic nature and management capability of Internet-based media and seek ways to bring some of those qualities to TV. “Canoe represents the cable industry’s broad effort to do this and Navic is certainly one of the most prominent likely participants in Canoe,” he said.

Wieser went so far as to suggest that Navic’s technologies “could be made uniform across the country, across all of cable’s footprint.” In fact, he said he and his colleagues “want to see the sorts of things Admira is offering on a national basis in every home.”

One of Canoe’s goals — bringing more interactivity to TV viewing — doesn’t particularly float Wieser’s boat. Wieser said TV viewers just want to enjoy their favorite shows in true couch potato fashion.

He’s more interested in ad targeting technology that “takes advantage of the generally passive nature of television consumption” while offering opportunities to change how advertising and agencies manage their media budgets.”

In other words, Wieser doesn’t believe in trying to change the behavior of TV viewers. “We’re saying, lets change advertiser behavior and agency behavior,” he explained.

He offers a scenario in which an advertiser wants to reach people who are interested in a particular celebrity. Normally, the ads would run against programming featuring celebrities, but if the celebrity is in a car accident and it’s covered on a news network, “everybody who is watching that celebrity channel all of a sudden is watching the news network and you want to re-direct where your commercial is going, so the commercial winds up on the news network.”

Only an automated system such as Navic’s can do this type of re-direction on-the-fly and in real-time, said Wieser.

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