Nielsen Is Bringing Real-Time Interactive Ads to Smart TVs to Keep Streaming Audiences Engaged

Automatic content recognition allows marketers to personalize ads

ACR is still in its early stages, but it’s becoming a way to keep viewers engaged with their televisions and phones during commercial breaks.
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TV viewing can happen anytime, anywhere, and perhaps no research firm is more cognizant of that fact than Nielsen.

For nearly a century, the ratings and measurement giant has provided media buyers with the most up-to-date audience viewing data. But as smart and connected TVs replace traditional set-top boxes, Nielsen has had to adapt in order to accurately measure an audience’s myriad touch points with a show.

And yet Nielsen’s mission remains unchanged. “Nielsen’s job has always been to measure an entire market,” said Kelly Abcarian, svp of Nielsen’s Watch Product Architecture. “All ethnicities, races, ages, genders—and that doesn’t change just because technology is changing.”

“This is an $80 billion advertising industry,” Abcarian added, “and we intend to understand what it does and does not represent.”

To that end, Nielsen in February acquired Gracenote, a global technology company that creates, collects and organizes data about TV shows, sports and entertainment using automatic content recognition. ACR can quickly collect personalized data as well as determine what content is being played on specific devices without any input from viewers.

Now, targeted ads powered by ACR can drive engaged viewers to a brand’s microsite or send special coupons and deals to viewers’ smartphones once they type in their phone number, all thanks to Gracenote’s new partnerships with interactive creative ad providers Connekt and Ensequence.

Once the ACR technology identifies what’s being watched and how to personalize advertisements, Connekt and Ensequence deliver the designed interactive overlay to Gracenote. Already Gracenote’s technology is in 25 million smart TVs globally, so the possibilities of interactive ads will soon be widespread.

“There’s no way to tell yet if this is the new way all television advertising will be created,” noted Abcarian, “but it’s at least a way to boost engagement over and beyond more traditional ads.”

In an exclusive demonstration, Gracenote showed how a coffee brand can promote geotargeted deals based on where the viewer lives. Consumers simply use their smart TV remote to type in a cell number and then a coupon is sent to the phone. Other brands, including a major soda company, have used location-based targeting. One automaker also employed additional interactive elements such as a scroll to showcase customized features.

Carrie Drinkwater, svp and group director of investment activation for MullenLowe Mediahub, an integrated advertising agency, believes these types of immersive ads won’t necessarily become the norm, but they will become an important part of a media plan.

“Interactive advertising will become a predictable piece of creative,” she remarked. “This is a relevant, personalized experience and represents the evolution from traditional TV to the digital world.”

ACR is still in the early stages of development, but it’s becoming a way to keep streaming audiences engaged with their television and their phone during a commercial break.

“As millennials and younger generations get older, they’ll have less tolerance for traditional commercials,” said Drinkwater. “But people will always want a break from something.”

Here, Adweek gets under the hood of ACR-powered Gracenote and explains how the technology will be used by the brand marketing ecosystem.

6 steps to an ACR campaign

Select a linear TV ad campaign to target.
Determine campaign goals, including devices and impression targets.
Define the campaign’s call-to-action interactivity.
Develop an overlay application and build creative assets with an interactive ad agency.
Deliver that interactive ad to millions of smart TVs.
Measure the results, including impressions and number of times users enter a phone number.

What ACR can do 

In the familiar ad breaks within programs, Gracenote’s ACR capability can provide a screen squeeze where the interactive portion doesn’t cover any of the produced creative: a pop-up prompt that can allow users to enter either their email address or cell number, which allows a brand to directly push to mobile from the TV itself. Moreover, producers of live sports events, such as golf tournaments, can change an overlay within the program if, for example, they wanted to highlight a player’s sponsor. One interactive campaign, which promoted branded merchandise for a major media company, resulted in nearly 2,000 ecommerce transactions and drove 11 times more pageviews than a garden variety spot.


This story first appeared in the Sept. 18, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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