As more people stream their favorite shows, the ad tech company BrightLine is trying to help ads on smart TVs work more like digital advertising.
The company is teaming up with Nielsen Marketing Cloud, the media research firm’s marketing software division. The deal will potentially enable advertisers to tap into Nielsen’s 60,000 different audience segments, which can be used for ad targeting purposes on connected TVs, as well as other devices.
The vision driving the partnership is to help make TV ads shown on over-the-top streaming apps on devices like Apple TVs or Rokus more interactive and more targeted.
Media companies such as Hulu, Discovery Communications and Viacom already can use BrightLine’s technology to add elements of interactivity and personalization to their traditional TV ads. For example, a person watching a show via a cable network’s over-the-top app might see a car ad, and that ad could prompt the viewer to access more video content or receive information on local dealer locations through a few clicks of their remote.
These BrightLine-powered ads have been available for several years. Hulu has run recent campaigns for advertisers such as Toyota, Hennessy and Texas Tourism.
Over the past few years, BrightLine’s platform has been collecting data at the device level. It uses that data to figure out which TV ads perform best on specific apps and the various devices people use to stream TV shows.
Now via the Nielsen deal, it will be able to know which of those devices are found in households that are made up of certain characteristics, such as people who have kids and may be in the market for a car. Advertisers will be able to target specific creative or offers to different audience segments using a variety of data sets.
In the above example, households with children could be shown an ad for minivans, while another household might see a sports car ad.
Even as more people stream their favorite shows via connected televisions, it’s still very early days in OTT advertising. But BrightLine believes its roster of partners, which also includes networks like ESPN and Fox, will help accelerate the market’s growth.
The company’s chief executive and co-founder, Jacqueline Corbelli, said in order to get more advertisers interested in buying targeted ads on smart TVs, it’s crucial for the market to have a centralized sales outlet “that could deliver scale across the full OTT footprint,” she said.
To help build out that footprint, BrightLine last year raised $20 million in series A funding.
Of course, a capability is one thing. There needs to be interest from both ad buyers and sellers for a significant market for targeted OTT ads to develop. Right now, ads on connected TV apps are often sold on a national level as part of big packages.
As more marketers grow accustomed to using data in digital advertising, the more they want to apply that tactic to other media, said Damian Garbaccio, executive vice president, commercial, for Nielsen Marketing Cloud. “Is it going to be a billion dollar market tomorrow? No. But there is certainly demand from clients. It is real,” he said.
“Advertisers are never ready for anything new. They need a push,” added Michael Bologna, president of Modi Media, a division of the media buying giant GroupM. “This creates something that is nice and sweet and simple. It will make it much easier for advertisers and agencies to explore.”
It’s worth noting that even as more advertisers express interest in better TV ad targeting, it’s still largely an open question as to whether more passive living room viewers want to interact with ads on TV screens. Companies like TiVo have been touting such interactivity for years, but most advertisers still rely on traditional 30-second ads.
Peter Naylor, senior vice president of advertising sales at Hulu, said that it will be key for advertisers testing these ads to make them simple for consumers to interact with while delivering something valuable. He noted that it took a while for both consumers and advertisers to grow accustomed to mobile touch screens, and he thinks TV ads will go through a similar evolution.
“The idea that I can play with an ad on my TV, [while new now], there will be a time when people expect that,” he said.