Instant replay of goals could be TV advertisers' latest weapon

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The Independent Online

The winning goal in a World Cup match could be inserted into a television commercial within minutes of the final whistle thanks to a revolution in the way advertisements are produced.

ITV is the latest broadcaster to sign up to a new system that dramatically cuts the time it takes between the finishing touches being put to an advert and it being shown on air.

With the advent of personal video recorders, enabling viewers to fast forward through advertising breaks, advertisers are under pressure to find more effective ways of gripping their audience.

If there is a good weather forecast, a clothing retailer could switch its television advertising campaign to promote swimwear. Or viewers could interact with an advert, for example using red button technology to decide whether an updated version of the Nescafé Gold Blend couple end up together or not.

It is part of an aggressive move by the television industry to combat the threat to traditional advertising from the internet and other new technologies.

International Media Distribution, the company that has pioneered digital distribution in advertising, announced last week that following the deal with ITV, it can now deliver commercials to all the major broadcasters in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Until recently, advertisements were either delivered via a playout system, a high-speed phoneline which only operated at three fixed times each week, or on a tape by motorcycle courier, a method open to human error.

As a result, it could take up to a week between a commercial leaving an agency and being broadcast. Now, the whole process can be completed in minutes.

David Haynes, the chairman of International Media Distribution, who founded the company nine years ago with Charles Dunstone, the chief executive of Carphone Warehouse, said: "Broadcasters want the ability to switch adverts at a moment's notice. In the old days, if a television group wanted to change its advertising, it would take a minimum of two days. Now it takes minutes."

He added: "It makes much more sophisticated advertising possible. Complexity is very important nowadays, because consumers have the ability to zip through ads.

"In sporting events, the winning kick could be on air within minutes of the game."

Charlotte Robinson, head of television administration at the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency, said: "Agencies have less time to make commercials these days. If you can deliver adverts instantaneously that's a huge time saving.

"Clients often want to react quickly to things, for example a haircare product which has won an award. It means you can make and deliver these commercials on time. There will be more creative opportunities, because we're not so set in stone."

The new system is more cost effective at around half the price of old methods of delivery. Every advertisement that is delivered using the digital technology is quality checked for colour and sound.

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