One of the more interesting ad tech announcements made at CES this year was the partnership between ActiveVideo, a cloud-based TV technology provider, and Brightline, a provider of interactive TV advertising solutions. Both companies already work with leading pay TV and connected TV providers, but they are now working together on CloudTV Adcast a cloud-based interactive advertising product. Here Sachin Sathaye, Vice President Strategy & Product Marketing at ActiveVideo, and Rob Aksman, founder and Chief Experience Officer at Brightline, explain what the partnership entails and how cloud-based delivery can overcome device and platform fragmentation.
Could you provide a little background on ActiveVideo’s core business and the recently announced partnership with Brightline?
Sachin: ActiveVideo decouples user experiences from device dependencies to accelerate service velocity, service portability and device reach for video providers and brands. ActiveVideo’s CloudTV H5 software platform renders user experiences written in HTML5 in the cloud, rather than at the device level, and delivers them as fully-interactive video streams to any digital or IP STB or connected CE device.
Similarly, CloudTV AdCast is an interactive TV ad distribution software platform that enables Cloud UIs to deliver web-style interactive TV advertising to STBs and connected devices, which frees television advertising and T-commerce applications from device dependencies. By freeing advertising and T-commerce from device dependencies, ads written once in HTML5 – including existing Web ads – can be delivered with a consistent experience on both set-top boxes (STBs) and connected devices.
ActiveVideo’s partnership with BrightLine combines the core competencies of both companies to provide brands with the reach and awareness of TV, and the engagement and measurability of the Web. The partnership links BrightLine’s HTML5 authoring tools, its analytics capabilities and its established advertiser relationships with ActiveVideo’s ability to distribute HTML5 content to any STB or connected device and to collect data that is fed to analytics engines such as BrightLine’s.
Case in point: ActiveVideo and BrightLine have enabled interactive brand experiences from L’Oreal that already are in-market on Roku devices. Although the Roku device lacks an HTML5 browser, the full, interactive L’Oreal experience is being delivered from the cloud without any additional development or modification.
What are we typically talking about when we’re talking about interactivity and engagement on connected TV? Are advertisers seeing conversions, and if not, what could be done to enable more sales to take place on TV?
Rob: BrightLine has been helping national, top 100 advertisers engage viewers on the first-screen for over 10 years. Yes, we are seeing conversions and our engagements extend the conversation between viewer and brand, which has a direct correlation with post-exposure behavior. The ability that ActiveVideo brings to create a direct, real-time web connected experience opens the door for true first-screen T-Commerce that is independent of an operator platform – and can plug into a brands already established web-commerce architecture with ease.
Your announcement came in the same week that Brightcove acquired Unicorn Media. Do you think we’re set to see a more widespread convergence of the content delivery and advertising technology industries?
Sachin: We’re seeing a couple of things: first, that content-rich advertising vehicles that inform and engage can be destinations for viewers and can help to build relationships with brands. It’s too soon to offer data on the L’Oreal campaign on Roku, but we do know that it is generating engagement that is orders of magnitude greater than Web or traditional TV ads.
The other piece that is important is the need for advertisers to achieve scale. It doesn’t make sense for advertisers to spend six months or more writing interactive TV ad campaigns to a specific device make or model with limited footprint and to run the ad only for six weeks. What often happens in those cases is that advertisers simply ignore interactive TV ads entirely, even though the data – three times greater ROI when compared to traditional TV ads, and 20X greater response rate vs. Internet ads and 14 times longer ad engagement vs. Internet ads — says they are incredibly powerful. We believe that interactive TV ads can generate new revenue for Service Providers and can help CE manufactures to monetize devices beyond point of sale, but to do so they need to be universally available.
Is platform fragmentation still hobbling the connected TV ecosystem or is there light at the end of the tunnel?
Rob: The biggest issue that BrightLine has been solving on the legacy side has been fragmentation on the buying, execution and reporting sides. The light at the end of the tunnel comes from ActiveVideo – their solution allows us to bypass the lack of processing power on legacy STBs, Connected TVs, and OTT devices to create experiences that are on-par with what marketers are doing on web and mobile, but still offer the trusted engagement and results that come from television.
Sachin: Just to add to that. Platform fragmentation is still an issue, but we’re seeing increased movement toward cloud-based platforms such as CloudTV that decrease dependency on STB or connected device resources. Video providers, CE manufacturers and brands are increasingly coming to the realization that writing content to the device always will be limited to the device capabilities. Rendering user experiences in the cloud enables them to be streamed to any device, regardless of age, graphics capabilities, processing power or memory.
What are the targeting options on connected TV? Is there a shortage of data because TV’s aren’t used for browsing?
Rob: The great thing about connected TV being built on existing web standards is that for the first time, marketers are able to act on engagement data in real-time, whether it is displaying hyper-local, addressable call-to-actions, or matching on a one-to-one level what the viewer does after engaging with a brand experience. To be able to provide true proof that someone changed their preferred brand of mayonnaise after spending 5 minutes engaging with a brand experience on TV is the last piece of the puzzle.