Sears Taps Gemstar for iTV Ads

Sears, Roebuck and Co. is looking to emerging media for a new marketing push, tapping New York City-based Gemstar-TV Guide for interactive program guide advertising.

Through a 12-month agreement, Sears will advertise on Gemstar’s TV Guide Interactive program guide beginning in fourth quarter. Ads will appear most often during peak sales periods during the next year, such as during the holidays.

Gemstar, which is best known as the publisher of TV Guide magazine, has lately turned its attention to selling ad space in its interactive program guide, which appears on digital cable TVs, as well as its GUIDE Plus+ on-screen TV listing service, which appears on standard cable and VCRs.

All told, the services reach a combined 12 million domestic households — recipients that Gemstar-TV Guide says are typically high-end consumers, since they’re using services typically available only with high-end cable subscriptions, TVs, and VCRs. And according to Gemstar, most of these households view the service an average of four times an hour.

Additionally, Gemstar says its interactive program guide — which is carried by many large cable systems operators — is a way for advertisers to reach wide, national audiences, despite the fragmented cable market.

That’s exactly the sort of buy that Sears — which operates more than 850 department stores, and more than 2,100 specialty stores and outlets nationally — says it’s looking for.

“Our partnership with Gemstar-TV Guide is an important step in reaching the Sears target customer, who, in a multi-channel universe, is looking for program information at his or her fingertips,” said Perianne Grignon, who is Sears’ director of media services. “Gemstar research tells us that our target customer visits the program guide an average of four times an hour, and we see that as a great opportunity to communicate our core messages interactively.”

Since completing its merger in July 2000, Gemstar-TV Guide has been pushing to increase ad revenues across its online, TV and print properties, with interactive television seeing a spate of activity during the past several months. Earlier this year, the company signed a strategic agreement with J. Walter Thompson and Ford Motor Company for interactive advertising.

“We are pleased to add Sears to our growing list of advertising partners for the powerful Gemstar-TV Guide IPG products,” said Jeffrey Mahl, president of media sales at Gemstar-TV Guide. “We believe, as does Sears, that the medium is extremely effective for reaching consumers at their point of decision during dedicated television viewing time.”

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