Can Connekt Make a Success of T-commerce?

Connekt, launched from stealth mode last month, is a new connected TV based platform which aims to deliver overlay ads relevant to on-screen content and then facilitate immediate purchases via the company’s proprietary T-commerce (TV-based ecommerce) technology. Founders Mike Fitzsimmons and David Rudnick, both previously of Delivery Agent, one of the early forerunners in T-commerce, believe their new platform can overcome the problems which have held consumers back from converting in the past. This time the focus is more on allowing consumers to purchase products they see on their TV screen via their mobile phones.

Connekt is powered by CARL, a home-grown supercomputer which uses AI and machine learning to process data feeds and enable predictive ad targeting, delivery and measurement. CARL draws data from Gracenote, whose automatic content recognition (ACR) technology identifies what’s showing on the screen. Pairing this with consumer interaction data and other data sources, it will push out targeted ads to audiences based on what they’re seeing, and what their buying habits are like.

CEO Mike Fitzsimmons says the platform will allow ads to be linked to on-screen content in whole new ways. Speaking to VAN, he described how it might be used during a live sports broadcast. “I know you’re watching a sporting event, but did LeBron James score or did Steph Curry just score? What we’re working to do is to combine all that data to not only identify that you’re watching the game, but also identify what just happened in the game, and then use that to push really intelligent offers to you,” he explained. “Using this analogy, you actually know that LeBron James wears Nikes, and you can then potentially dynamically serve up an ad for Nikes.”

These pop up ads are constructed and managed through Connekt’s proprietary ad delivery platform FLX, and can integrate Connekt’s Transakt t-commerce technology to drive interaction and direct sales. T-commerce has faltered in the past due to the clunkiness of interactions via a TV remote, but Fitzsimmons explained that Connekt was seeking a ‘push to mobile’ solution, possibly leading audiences to a Connekt app. Fitzsimmons is optimistic, though, that new solutions will smooth interactivity between devices, making products like Connekt easier to design and operate. “We’re in a world now where there’s all kinds of things which can be done using the IP address in the home to connect up devices. That’s where we hope things are going, where there’s real interoperability between devices,” said Fitzsimmons.

At launch, Connekt has partnerships with distribution platforms including Sony, LG, Roku and Hisense, and with media companies such as HBO, CBS and Showtime. “We’re making it possible for our customers to interact with brands that interest them on their smart TVs in compelling new ways,” said Peter Park, Director, HE Advanced Service Team at LG Electronics in the press release. “Through our partnership with Connekt, we’re able to deliver it to our customers’ living rooms today.”

Brands may be tempted by the prospect, but will audiences approve of the format? This question is especially relevant to ads inserted directly into TV programmes, which audiences may find intrusive or distracting. “Given that six minutes of ads for 24 minutes of content is the reality currently, do I think consumers will appreciate having more engaging experiences during those six minutes? Yes I do” Fitzsimmons told VAN, outlining how brands have trialled audience friendly approaches on the platform such as on-screen coupons which can be redeemed online. So far Connekt says is has seen engagement rates for overlays on linear TV ads fall between 0.5 percent and 5 percent across a range of verticals, though engagement does not necessarily lead to a purchase then and there.

Fitzsimmons believes that Connekt will add real value to TV advertising, and that such innovations could be vital for sustaining the current ad-supported TV model. “The economics of television are under pressure… customers have to give something back, and if that giving something back is seeing marketing messages during the content they’re watching, that’s where the innovation is going to happen.”

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