Roku And Innovid Roll Out Interactive Video Ads, Including SMS-Based Reminders To Watch

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Roku users will now begin to see more personalized, targeted, and interactive video ads in their Roku apps, thanks to a new partnership between the streaming media device maker and video advertising provider Innovid. Using a Roku remote, users engaging with the new ad format will be able to do things like play games, take quizzes, check out a local retailers’ top products or current sales, watch extended videos related to a product, and more.

Early partners whose apps will feature these interactive ads include CBS, VEVO and Crackle.

In CBS’s case, there’s a family of channels available on Roku that will launch Innovid-powered ads this summer, including CBS News, CBS Sports, CNET, GameSpot, and others.

Roku and Innovid have worked together in the past to help publishers introduce interactive video ads into their apps. But before, these integrations were handled as one-offs.

With the new partnership, Innovid will become Roku’s first interactive video solution and will be bundled into the Roku Audience Solutions suite. That means Roku’s software development kit (SDK), which is used by all its app publishers to build their channels for Roku’s platform, will now include Innovid’s technology as part of the Roku Ad Framework, opening up the potential for interactive video ads to Roku’s thousands of channels.

The integrations actually went live a month-and-a-half ago, but the two companies are only announcing their partnership now.

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Innovid’s platform, which is used by agencies and brand marketers across platforms, including desktop, mobile and TV, offers a single dashboard where customers can track everything related to their video campaign views and audience demographics. The platform has grown 350 percent from 2013 to 2014. The company works with brands like Chrysler, Kraft, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Mondelez, Best Buy and others.

The ability to better understand viewership and demographics related to streaming video and video ad viewing is something that Roku has been focusing on recently. For example, in April, Roku and Nielsen announced a partnership that will allow the measurement firm to track video ads across Roku’s 10 million-plus devices, including its media players and TVs.

But according to Innovid co-founder and CTO Tal Chalozin, it’s not just the ability to measure ads more effectively that attracts advertisers to this interactive video ad format. The ads have also been shown to extend the time viewers engage with the ads’ content, he says.

“On average, on every vertical and every campaign, we managed to get extra time earned – we doubled the length of the pre-roll,” Chalozin says. The figures, he notes, are derived from over 100 early test campaigns. Many of these took place with Crackle’s channel on Roku, before the technology was made available to the larger Roku ecosystem.

These interactive ads can also be personalized using data like a user’s location.

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While the first channels to use the new SDK that includes the video ad technology will be going live soon, Roku’s  VP of Advertising, Scott Rosenberg, says that a couple dozen more are already in the pipeline.

“In time, we expect the majority of ad-supported apps on Roku will sit on top of this framework because it gives them super easy access to Innovid, to Nielsen and other things that are on our roadmap,” he says.

The framework itself represents a decision on Roku’s part to invest more heavily in adtech – before it launched, Roku only offered its channel publishers some sample code to help them with building their app. Things like what’s being made possible now via Innovid would have to be developed on a case-by-case basis. But these days, the idea is to offer more capabilities to all Roku publishers surrounding audience measurement, advertising, and more.

Extending Ads From The TV Screen To Mobile Devices

While initially, the interactive video ads will be largely be experiences that consumers engage with by pressing buttons on their Roku remote, it sets the stage for more advanced ads that extend across devices in the future. For instance, viewers watching a movie trailer ad on Roku could press a button and have information about showtimes sent to their smartphone, or even have the option to buy tickets pre-filled for them in that app.

The ability to work with mobile apps isn’t live yet, but the Roku ads will be able to extend themselves to smartphones today by way of SMS.

For instance, TV networks are developing next-generation “tune-in” ad campaigns using Innovid’s ad format. These campaigns are meant to entice viewers to watch one of their shows, explains Chalozin, and will ask Roku users if they want to be reminded when a show or event is going to air.

After pressing a button on the remote, viewers will enter in their 10-digit phone number to get these alerts as text messages.

“We see this as the next step on extending the interactivity and extending the engagement beyond just the TV screen to another device,” he says. “We will double-down on this type of dialog between the screens.”

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Correction: Article updated to reflect that Innovid was discussing how its advertisers could take advantage of retargeting campaigns. Roku is not tracking devices.