- Fox and video-tech company Innovid are bringing a new ad product to TV that is designed to let people watch fewer ads.
- The plan is to help people used to binging shows on streaming services have more control of their ad experiences.
- For advertisers, it’s a chance to give people the choice to engage with their TV ads on a deeper level.
People are doing whatever they can to avoid TV ads. Fox wants to help them.
The broadcaster has teamed up with the video tech company Innovid to bring new interactive ads to people’s TV screens designed to engage viewers and satisfy their desire to watch fewer ads.
Specifically, viewers will be able to chose to watch a specific longer ad from a brand like Trident or Clorox, and, in return, they’ll be able to stream a show like FX’s “Atlanta” with limited commercial interruptions.
These new interactive ads – Fox calls them “Engagement Ads” – have already debuted on FX’s connected TV app (FX Now) via Roku devices, and Fox is planning to roll it out on multiple network’s digital platforms. These ads are available only when people stream content on demand, and not during live TV.
The ad product was born out of TrueX, the ad-tech company 21st Century Fox acquired in late 2014. For a while, TrueX ads were mostly limited to desktop experiences; a person streaming an episode of “Gotham” on could choose to watch a longer ad upfront in exchange for seeing fewer ads during the rest of the show.
This type of “watch an ad for longer content sessions” offering has become more common on digital outlets like Hulu and Spotify. But TrueX’s challenge has long been getting enough scale to make interactive ads compelling enough for ad buyers.
Bringing the functionality to connected TV viewing, or OTT in ad-industry parlance, should help.
Here’s what it looks like:
“We want to reduce ad load and increase engagement,” said Ed Davis, chief product officer at TrueX. “We’re really focused on that. We think this engagement ads model is very transparent for consumers, who understand what they are getting in exchange for their attention.”
Fox’s move comes at a time when the TV industry is grappling with the rise of ad-free content streaming on services like Netflix and people ditching cable altogether. As a remedy, many in the industry (including Fox’s recently hired sales chief) have advocated reducing the number of ads on TV.
The trick will be for TV networks to ensure they can charge advertisers a high enough premium for these type of interactive ads to make up for any revenue lost from running fewer ads overall.
Though Fox has been running the consumer choice ads for years, putting them on the TV screen has proven a technological challenge, said Tal Chalozin, cofounder and CTO at Innovid.
On-demand viewing is fragmented (people connect using devices ranging from Apple TVs to Amazon Fires to Xboxes), and because consumers expect TV streaming to be seamless, so translating the digital ad tech to TV was not simple.
But the even bigger challenge is getting people accustomed to interacting with TV ads when they’re used to watching TV passively from the couch. Thus, the ads have to be both compelling and simple.
“What we’ve been focused on is bringing all of the awesomeness of interactive ads to a medium that has historically been lean back,” said Chalozin. “Getting people to pull up their remote is not an easy thing. Getting people buying into the future of TV requires some training.”
Fox says it has been testing the new product on the FX app, and to date, 50% of viewers have chosen to interact with the brand’s video ads.
The new interactive ads are rolling out on the TV apps for the Fox network and National Geographic Channel, in addition to FX. But Fox wants to bring this product to the rest of the industry. It has rival network A&E on board, for example.
“We want to telegraph to all publishers that this isn’t a unique cottage thing for Fox,” said Davis. “Everybody is realizing that we need scale in TV ads, and we need to measure quality of attention if we want to continue to differentiate this premium media compared to other options out there.”