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Advertising is a Value Exchange: True[X] SVP Simon Asselin

True[X] knows what the problem is. It’s Netflix.

And if the TV business is going to hold on to its envied $70 billion advertising booty, it needs to get its targeting data and ad tech ducks in a row. It also needs to figure out how to make commercial television more palatable to a generation raised on streaming. The more time people spend streaming Netflix, Amazon, HBO, etc., the harder they become to reach with ads. “The biggest challenge for the industry at a macro level is the growth in non-ad supported viewing, which freezes advertisers out of an ever-growing percentage of consumers’ viewing time,” said Simon Asselin, SVP, Engineering, True[X].

The company’s mission, even prior to selling to 21st Century Fox in 2014, has been to help even out the value exchange between consumers and advertisers on ad supported TV. True[X] has been pioneering an ad model that allows for more consumer control and choice when watching a show with ads — while gradually reducing the overall ad clutter in the medium.

As OTT consumption surges, the opportunity to reinvent the TV ad experience is wide open, yet increasingly urgent.

“The biggest opportunity that we see when it comes to advertising on OTT is the connected TV space; this, increasingly, is where the audiences are,” he said. The key to getting that right will be “respecting the viewer’s time, being transparent about the advertising experience and providing control over the advertising experience.”

Simon Asselin






What is your company doing to transform TV advertising?

True[X]’s core product, the engagement ad, offers consumers the chance to trade their attention for something of value, usually a lower ad load.

We enable premium publishers to create opt-in value exchange ad experiences that: (a) are more efficient with consumers’ time and attention, (b) deliver more value to advertisers and (c) allow publishers to monetize content at the same or higher levels.

What are the opportunities for your company in OTT advertising?

True[X]’s approach to CTV advertising on the creative side has been to take advantage of features like rich animation, interactive storytelling and video, access to voice activation and remote-control based motion sensors.

This is enabled via an internal tool called Blueprints that helps turn best practices into templates and widgets. That in turn allows for the sort of agile and scalable creative production that lets True[X] build the sort of immersive experiences that draw the audience in—in fact, a recent study we conducted found that interactive video ads produce 4.9x the brand lift of standard, non-interactive video ads.

What’s wrong with the conversation right now, and what are the biggest challenges for the industry?

The biggest challenge for the industry at a macro level is the growth in non-ad supported viewing, which freezes advertisers out of an ever-growing percentage of consumers’ viewing time.

At a micro level, the challenges involve integrating the planning, buying and measurement processes that have been developed for other forms of premium video into OTT inventory.

A major divide for these processes still exists between the worlds of linear and digital advertising, causing friction that limits the full transition of advertiser focus and budgets to digital platforms.

Further, video inventory is significantly fragmented across a mix of open and proprietary ecosystems (aka “walled gardens”). This creates additional complexity for marketers, as unified media planning and optimization is impossible and basic media management has to be handled in several different ways.

On the agency side, there’s often confusion or inconsistency as to which team is responsible for the ad budget. Is it linear TV or is it digital?

There are also not a lot of technical standards in terms of the way these platforms are developed or the way the ad stitching technology works within them. The same applies to measurement technology.

What development do you think is most important to watch right now?

It’s going to be crucial to watch what, if any, advertising opportunities will be available in existing and new SVOD services.

In addition, as an industry we need to keep an eye on any industry and technical consolidation helping normalize out all the Server-Side Ad Insertion (SSAI), content management systems, as well as video ad servers. This has the potential to drive liquidity and scale in the share of the market that is not locked behind proprietary walled gardens.

What has more upside, addressable TV advertising or OTT — or do they converge?

Each of these opportunities may be rich, but it could be some time until we know to what degree, as we need for measurement to catch up. Investment will chase performance but without stable, consistent ROI measurement, it’s hard to say which has better upside for advertisers and if it makes sense for publishers to deliver addressable TV at scale.

Who ends up controlling budgets for OTT? Digital buyers? TV buyers? Advanced TV specialists?

All three. Every agency/client will approach it in its own way.

What are your two or three keys that would be most effective in developing the CTV advertising marketplace?

Interactivity. True[X] is focused on developing creative capabilities on the CTV platform with non-linear storytelling, taking advantage of device sensors such as the remote gyro/ accelerometer, voice, GPS, etc. Advertisers are not making the most of these rich capabilities and as a result, they’re leaving brand impact on the table.

On the publisher side, being deliberate and innovative in figuring out the branding opportunities that make sense and “fit” in the context of the overall publisher product experience. For instance, ad load reduction / skipping on VOD, granting in-app currency for gamified products (i.e. Twitch), alternatives to pay-walls. That’s all about respecting the viewer’s time, being transparent about the advertising experience and providing control over the advertising experience (i.e. opt-in screens).


Want more? Download the full OTT Advertising Report from TV[R]EV