Grey Partners with ACTV for iTV Push in U.K.

Grey Global Group is plotting its move into the interactive television space, inking a deal with Alley iTV firm ACTV to roll out a joint product later this year in the U.K.

New York-based Grey plans to approach the market through an agreement that will see the ad agency’s Grey Interactive TV unit using ACTV’s SpotOn targeted advertising product in the region as something of a test-case, since iTV is in wider availability in the U.K., due in part to a less-fragmented cable environment.

SpotOn, which was jointly developed with Motorola and OpenTV, allows advertisers to deliver local information in national or regional TV commercials, and to target spots by individual household demographics. That’s in addition to equipping ads with interactivity that could, say, allow a user to ask for product information using their remote control.

GiTV, headquartered in London, will use the service in creating iTV ads for Grey clients that include Procter & Gamble, Lloyds TSB, Airtours and Virgin Net.

“The ability to deliver effective commercials to targeted audiences has been a long-time goal of advertisers, and our early experience with interactive advertising has convinced us that SpotOn is a true breakthrough in this area,” said Anna Prosser, international strategy director of GiTV. “We are excited to team with ACTV and are enthusiastic about SpotOn’s prospects in the U.K.”

Meanwhile, ACTV will benefit from its new partner’s roster of traditional clients, and its pledge to shape the fledgling medium into a viable industry — ideally, boosting market credibility both for itself and the field.

“GiTV’s established relationships in the European advertising community and first-hand knowledge of interactive TV production will be a great asset for ACTV as we introduce SpotOn in the UK,” said Gregory Lovett, senior vice president for ACTV Europe. “The Grey Group recognizes the value of interactive TV, and … we look forward to working with them to deliver greater value to U.K. advertisers and viewers.”

But Grey and ACTV, which announced their partnership during the Pan-European iTV Advertising conference in Barcelona, Spain, by no means hold the monopoly on wedding traditional ad agency work and clients with iTV technology.

For one, ACTV already has existing relationships in the region with smaller outfits, including Omnicom’s Mediacom buying unit, Bcom3’s StarCom Worldwide, and Digital Edge.

More significantly — and more of a threat to Grey’s activities in the sector — the agreement with ACTV comes just days after a statement by the world’s largest ad agency company, New York’s Interpublic Group, which laid out the details of a competing iTV strategy.

Through its plan, IPG is angling to become the industry leader in offering agency creative and strategy for interactive TV. To that end, it tapped post-production firm Liberty Livewire to team with its McCann-Erickson Worldwide agency to oversee a company-wide initiative to make use of and promote the fledgling medium.

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