Now Under Comcast, Visible World Wants to Court Big Advertisers

David Kline knows what it’s like to try to hook a curious advertiser on experimenting with something new.

When he ran ad sales for Cablevision, his team tempted marketers like Unilever, Procter & Gamble’s Gillette and Benjamin Moore to test out technology that allowed TV viewers to press a button on their remote to get more information offered in a commercial. It helped build a “Barbie channel” for Mattel where viewers could watch short videos about the toy. And it even persuaded Royal Caribbean to experiment with a TV ad that could collect a viewer’s email address so more information about the pitch could be sent.

Now Kline must use those skills again to convince marketers to use services offered by Visible World, one of a number of so-called ad tech companies vying to curry favor with Madison Avenue. The company isn’t another startup. Comcast recently purchased it in June, raising questions about what the cable-and-technology giant might seek to do with this outfit that has developed a reputation for helping advertisers place TV commercials across the country that reach very specific audiences.

Those new ideas he offered at Cablevision “resonated with the advertisers because they took a 30-second ad and made it much more powerful,” said Kline, who has been named Visible World’s president and chief operating officer, the first news to come out of the company since being acquired. “That’s what we are doing today.”

Visible World intends to place more emphasis on getting advertisers to consider a product that helps them identify particular strands of audience, and then place commercials in ad inventory most likely to reach those specific viewers. The technology, which helps marketers place ads according to a pre-defined set of data, is known as “programmatic advertising,” and is gaining more traction as Madison Avenue attempts to place advertising on TV in much the same way it does in digital arenas.

“We see a very big future in programmatic, and we are really going to ramp up our efforts” behind a product that uses audience data to single out pieces of inventory placed before individual strands of consumers, said Kline, in an interview. “We are in about 75 million households. We’ve got great national coverage,” he said. “What we want to do is go to advertisers, and rather than selling them spots, we want to sell them audiences. If they want men who make over $100,000 and own their own homes and have two kids, we will sell them those.”

Visible World will back up its efforts with reports and data on impressions, he said, sometimes as quickly as the same day the commercial runs.

The service is the latest effort by Visible World, founded in 2000 by video-technology entrepreneur Seth Haberman, to try to make TV advertising more valuable. At a time when traditional TV viewers are turning to new technologies, resulting in ratings decreases, there is a theory emerging in the media business that advertisers might be willing to pay a premium to networks who can deliver the subsets of audience they truly desire — say, first-time car buyers, or fans of orange soda. In 2005, Visible World rolled out a product that allowed advertisers to make digital “tweaks” to their commercials so that the copy and graphics shows in one part of the country could be different from what was shown in another part — meaning advertisers could customize the spots to make them more attractive to different viewers.

Kline had been a member of Visible World’s board of directors, and was also chief operating officer at Ensequence , the New York ad-tech company that creates infrastructure for interactive TV commercials. Kline “joins us now as we take the company to new heights in increasing the performance of TV ad inventory,” Haberman said in a prepared statement.

Many eyes will be on Visible World to see if its efforts shed any light on Comcast’s future goals. In recent months, Comcast’s NBCUniversal has offered to let advertisers use proprietary set-top box data and technology in a bid to devise ad campaigns that attract specific kinds of audience.

Visible World also intends to sell software to other companies that want to help marketers identify specific kinds of viewers, Kline said. “We are experts with databases and creating algorithms to find the audiences we are able to package,” he said. “We want to make that available to different distributors to help them sell their inventory.” If the company is successful in its efforts, it could help put Comcast at the top of not only in the business of distribution of video, but also in the creation of new kinds of sales tactics for Madison Avenue.

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