Sequoia-backed video ad company Innovid is announcing that it’s working with Cisco to bring a new kind of ad targeting to second-screen apps (specifically, the smartphone and tablet apps of cable providers).
The idea is to target those ads based on what you’re watching — not just based on the show, but what’s actually being discussed on-screen at that moment. To do that, Cisco works with the cable operator to analyze the TV content in real time, identify relevant keywords in that content (as well as the context of those keywords), and then serve ads targeted at that those keywords.
For example, the companies say that if you’re watching a talk show and the host starts talking about tablets, they can serve you a tablet-related ad. Or if you’re watching a commercial for a tablet, the app might actually bring up a page where you can learn more and order the device in question.
Delivering these kinds of ads may become more important as second-screen activity increases, because if you’re fiddling with your phone or your tablet while you’re watching TV, you’re probably not paying much attention to traditional commercials.
Other experiments in this area include Shazam’s ability to identify TV ads and deliver related content. The problem with these early efforts, argued Innovid co-founder and CTO Tal Chalozin, is that the individual apps in question don’t have the broad reach that TV advertisers are looking for, and advertisers are expected to create many different ads to accommodate different formats.
With Innovid and Cisco’s approach of working with cable operators, on the other hand, Chalozin said advertisers can run large-scale campaigns. Even if someone doesn’t have, say, the Comcast or Time Warner app open, it could still send them a push notification about an exclusive offer or exclusive content. (To be clear, the companies aren’t announcing any partners yet, so Cisco and Time Warner are just examples of the types of apps that might be involved.)
Plus, working with the cable companies means that you don’t have to manually “check in” to the show for the app to know what you’re watching. And Chalozin said that with Innovid’s tools, a single ad will work across multiple apps and devices.
The companies are showing the technology at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, and Chalozin gave me a quick demo before the conference. Basically, he brought talk show footage up on his screen, and as it played, a different keyword was being identified every few seconds. Once in a while one of those keywords would be highlighted, signaling that an advertiser is targeting that keyword.
I’m guessing that speed will be an important factor here — if an ad comes up right when a related topic is being discussed, it might feel relevant, but if it comes up a minute or two later, it’s probably confusing or weird. Chalozin agreed, and he noted that Cisco’s technology only takes about two seconds to generate keywords, though he admitted, “Clearly that needs to be tested at full scale.”
As I noted above, the companies are only demonstrating the technology this week, not announcing partners or availability, but Chalozin said, “The intention is to launch it at the end of the first half of the year or the beginning of Q3.”