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This Ad-Tech Company Thinks Interactive Video Ads Can Bypass Blockers

Free All Media turns from music downloads to video advertising

Viewers were prompted to enter their email address to win prizes. Outside Television

With the rise of ad blocking and fraud concerns, publishers continue to get ads in front of consumers. One startup called Free All Media thinks it may have found a business model that works around those blockers by plugging content directly into publishers' sites.

The Hopatcong, N.J.-based company works with publishers—including Outside Television and Turner Sports—to set up video ads that encourage consumers to take an action, like entering an email address or receiving a coupon, to access content. They believe that model will get people to spend extra time with content, which benefits the advertiser and the media company. 

"Ad buyers are saying, 'Impressions are not enough,'" said Brian McCourt, Free All Media's CEO and founder. "We focus on [solving] fatigue and inundation of ads."

For example, the TV network Outside Television ran a six-week campaign this fall on its homepage promoting Locally.com, a shopping site that finds inventory in stores for consumers. After watching one of the site's clips, consumers could enter their email address for a chance to win prizes from 15 outdoor gear brands available on the site including Osprey, Deuter and Sea to Summit. 

Unlike other video ads wrapped in ad-serving technology that gets wiped out by blockers, Locally.com's promo was embedded as a piece of code—called an iframe—into Outside Television's content management system. Blockers recognized it as a regular piece of content, which kept it on the page. The ads are priced at a premium and add an extra $1 to $7 per thousand impressions to publishers' rates depending on the advertiser's goal.

Tacking a sweepstakes onto the end of the clip led to a 61 percent video completion rate for Outside Television. The move also kept folks watching long-form content. Each clip was two to five minutes long, and people spent an average of five-and-a-half minutes with the promo.

All told, 60 percent of those who saw the ad forked over an email address, which Outside Television can use for future marketing endeavors. The ad averaged a 5.75 percent clickthrough rate, increasing traffic to Locally.com by 30.7 percent.

Those numbers evidently made the effort a success—Locally.com is now running a second campaign with Outdoor Television.

"We are working on an additional campaign, and I've also met with some other online content providers," said Mike Massey, president of Locally.com. "We can take a customer from a marketing piece or from a brand site to show where [products] are near to them."

Turning from music to ads

Free All Media's concept is similar to Fox-owned TrueX's model that gives consumers advertising-supported options for how they want to watch videos.

McCourt said the difference with his company's technology is that publishers own the data from campaigns. He said promos are "sequenced," meaning ads can run before or after a clip. The latter hooks viewers for longer videos. 

The tech startup is also announcing it has raised $2.9 million from private investor Robert Moriarty to build the team's sales and marketing efforts.

Free All Media dates back to 2009 when music piracy was digital media's biggest problem. A product then called Free All Music helped the music industry make money off digital downloads. In exchange for interacting with a Coke ad, for example, consumers could download a Lady Gaga song.

But with the rise of music-streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, Free All Media pivoted toward ad tech 18 months ago.

"The ads are additive to the experience," McCourt said. "We're providing publishers with content and the ability to target the right consumer."

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