Q&A: Innovid’s Zack Zigdon on Interactive TV Advertising, OTT and the Adoption of Tech by the Creative Agencies

Zack ZigdonZack Zigdon is Managing Director International and Co-Founder at Innovid, a video marketing platform. Here Zigdon discusses interactive TV advertising, how creative agencies are embracing technology and the growth of ad-funded OTT services.

Does Innovid position itself on the buy-side or the sell-side?  

We’re a pure tech, buy side video advertising platform, working with ad agencies and brands. That said our product teams work closely with premium publishers including broadcasters to continually develop advanced video formats. This is a win-win situation that results in new and unique products for brands with a positive user experience.

For years we’ve been been hearing about how creative agencies need to get to grips with the data and technology. Is that now happening in any meaningful way?

Creative agencies face a massive challenge – on the one hand they have to continue to generate the “big idea”, which at this point is turning into a family of big ideas to address different audiences and delivery platforms; on the other hand, they are expected to remain on the cutting edge of all new technology developments so they can leverage them in service of these ideas.   For the most part I would say they do an excellent job of this, but it becomes a more and more impossible task as more and more technological changes occur.

From our point of view, it’s inevitable that creative agencies will need to have creative-savvy tech partners on board so they have some time left over for the creative process. Do they successfully leverage data and technology in service of creative? Absolutely. Could they likely do a better job of it with our help? Absolutely.

For example O2’s agency VCCP have very successfully used the brand’s wealth of data for real time creative decisioning in their interactive video campaigns. We see a huge uplift in engagement when data is used to deliver contextually relevant or personalised video content. Creative agencies are beginning to understand how much data can open the possibilities in front of them, and companies like ours are here to help make it happen.

Are consumers engaging with interactive TV ads in the same way they do on other screens, or do TV remotes make it difficult for them?

The numbers for interactive TV are particularly promising – very high engagements and very high completions. Clearly there is a learning curve for consumers, but if the consumer can immediately engage and find out more about an advertised product in a way that is less effort and more tailored to their needs, then it’s a learning curve we believe they will easily overcome. Also as we see remotes become more capable (replaced by phones in many instances) there will more and more of an expectation that anything on the TV is interactive. The biggest part of the learning curve is probably just understanding that you CAN interact with the ad directly, rather than trying to remember what you’ve seen and visit the right website later on.

Many of the leading OTT services are ad-free and subscription-based. Do you think OTT can continue to scale in this way, or are more ad-funded models likely to emerge?

We’re already seeing ad-funded models succeed. We’ve been running on Crackle, Sony’s ad-supported channel, for roughly 3 years on Roku. Ads exist on Hulu,  Apple TV and other well-known OTT players. Whether Netflix and other specific ad-free channels will eventually support ads or not is hard to predict. There are a lot of variables at play – competitive content, success of the subscription model long-term, the persistence or collapse of the separate bundled cable subscription, and many other points that make it very difficult to predict the future of a given service. I suspect that even Netflix themselves do not know today for certain whether they will continue ad-free or eventually offer ads as an option.

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