WarnerMedia Unveils ‘House of Max’ Brand Studio for Advertisers

WarnerMedia Ad Sales announced the creation of House of Max, a consumer-centric brand studio for advertisers leveraging WarnerMedia’s entertainment IP, brands and franchises.

With House of Max’s creative and production capabilities, advertisers will have the opportunity to develop custom creative for their marketing messages in the HBO Max environment. The brand studio will also create custom services for WarnerMedia entertainment properties, including Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT and truTV, among others.

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HBO Max with limited ads launched in June, and House of Max aims to make that ad load impactful. According to a recent study from WarnerMedia, 65% of consumers think more favorably of a brand when they provide fewer commercial interruptions during content.

Leading the House of Max business is Maureen Polo, SVP of Entertainment Marketing Solutions for WarnerMedia. Polo joined WarnerMedia in late 2020 after leading Fullscreen, an award-winning social content agency with unparalleled value in both the creator and advertising businesses. Serving as creative lead is Elaine Andrade, SVP and executive creative director for WarnerMedia, who joined from Fullscreen as well.

House of Max will consist of a group of storytellers with wide-ranging capabilities, including video production, motion design, photography, original music, among others, to create texture for brand campaigns.

“House of Max builds upon WarnerMedia’s bountiful history and storytelling tradition with captivating, consumer-centric experiences,” Polo said in a statement. “Developed by an outstanding group of dynamic and diversified collaborators, House of Max’s insights-driven brand storytelling is a harmonious combination of art and science that furthers consumers’ curiosity while driving business outcomes for partners.”

House of Max will closely collaborate with the HBO Max product team to create an effective environment that aligns with marketers’ goals and puts the viewer at the heart of the streaming experience.

“We’re seeing great engagement on HBO Max with Ads since the platform launched in June, with customers telling us they enjoy and appreciate our short ad breaks and seamless ad experience,” said Julian Franco, SVP of product management for HBO Max. “House of Max will help us provide an even better experience for our viewers, offering brand partners the opportunity to develop custom creative that fits in seamlessly with HBO Max’s premium content and interface.”

House of Max custom creative is available to any brand that partners with HBO Max beginning in the fourth quarter of 2021. House of Max will unveil additional details about its solutions, partners and more at a future launch experience.

Vizio Surpasses 11 Million TVs That Allow Dynamic Ad Insertion

Vizio June 9 announced it has surpassed 11.2 million addressable TVs across the United States that enable dynamic ad insertion.

The number represents a significant milestone for members of Project OAR, the addressable advertising consortium founded by Vizio and other TV media companies. By expanding the addressable footprint, programmers are able to deliver and manage ad inventory inside of linear programming broadcast to homes across America.

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“This milestone pushes the consortium beyond a ‘project’ and into an addressable business,” Adam Gaynor, VP of network partnerships and head of addressable for Vizio and OAR, said in a statement.

Gaynor said that with the infrastructure in place and more campaigns going live in the market, the Irvine, Calif.-based Vizio is making it possible to deploy, manage and sell dynamic ads for local and national inventory.

The Project OAR consortium, which is composed of television networks, operators and Vizio, has worked to create open standards that anyone in the ecosystem can use to increase the relevancy of advertising and improve linear viewing for consumers.

AMC Networks, Fox and WarnerMedia are among several of the companies that have executed national addressable campaigns using the OAR standard to deliver more relevant advertising experiences within linear and on-demand formats on smart TVs. With addressable campaigns, companies can reach audiences regardless of where, when or how they choose to view television.

“We started our first addressable campaign in late 2020 and have continued to air addressable campaigns across our national inventory and complemented by set-top box VOD and CTV, allowing for true convergence,” Kristine Bayles, VP of advanced advertising for AMC, said in a statement. “With over 30% of our linear viewership being addressable, we are unlocking new opportunities for brands to connect directly with the intended consumer with precision.”

Darren Sherriff, VP of advanced advertising products at Fox, said that as the scale of addressable continues to grow, working with established market standards will drive adoption and execution on a broader level.

“We’re working to make advertising more accessible and effective for our marketing partners by delivering ad innovations with precision and purpose,” Sherriff said.

Project Open Addressable Ready is a technology consortium created to deliver better advertising experiences to viewers through the use of dynamic advertising on Internet-connected TVs and devices.

Formed in 2018, OAR members include AMC Networks, NBCUniversal, Discovery, Disney, EW Scripps, Fox, Hearst Television, Univision, ViacomCBS, Vizio and WarnerMedia.

The consortium provides technical specifications and best-practice provisions for the selling, targeting and measurement of addressable TV advertising within privacy-compliant, consumer-forward TV environments and is open to content providers, linear inventory owners and OEMs.

Roku Launches Ad Studio Ahead of TV Upfronts 

Roku March 23 announced the launch of an advertising brand studio to produce new creative ad formats and TV programming tailored for marketers.

The advertising brand studio will help marketers go beyond the traditional 30-second TV ad spot and amplify big moments in the marketing calendar, including advertiser-commissioned short-form TV programs, interactive video ads, and other branded content on The Roku Channel.

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“The shift to TV streaming has accelerated and leading advertisers are going beyond the 30-second ad,” Dan Robbins, VP of ad marketing, said in a statement. “We’re excited to … create streamer-first campaigns on America’s No. 1 TV streaming platform.”

In launching the studio, Roku has completed an agreement with the Funny Or Die Branded Entertainment division in which a number of the company’s branded content team members will join Roku. Industry veterans Chris Bruss and Brian Toombs from Funny Or Die and Rachel Daly Helfman from Snap Inc. will join Roku’s Patrick Colletto in leadership roles for the advertising brand studio. The executives have crafted award-winning content for advertisers such as Kroger, Lyft, Ralph Lauren, Wendy’s and more.

TV streaming has creative flexibility that goes beyond what traditional linear TV can offer to marketers. The new advertising brand studio will build on Roku’s existing offerings, which include sponsorships and native ads such as this year’s TurboTax partnership that will bring the 2021 March College Hoops Hub to life in TV streaming. In partnership with Roku, the brand built a College Basketball Game Guide on the Roku platform that not only unlocked free college basketball content for streamers, but also invited streamers to try to beat the buzzer across their TV and phone with an augmented reality lens.

Immersive branded experiences drive incremental value for both marketers and consumers today. A 2020 study by MAGNA, Roku and IPG Media Lab, “Valuing the Value Exchange,” found that these branded experiences, alongside video advertising, generate 4X greater purchase intent than video advertising alone.

“Branded experiences on the Roku platform helped us shift ad budgets quickly to TV streaming and go beyond traditional advertising to move the needle on purchase consideration,” said Lisa McQueen, media manager of Lexus. “We’re thrilled to collaborate with Roku for a world-class, hands-on production experience for our streaming TV advertising campaigns seen by millions of streamers.”

Roku will unveil additional details, partners and advertising projects at its IAB NewFronts presentation on May 3.

Roku to Acquire Nielsen’s Video Advertising Business for TV Market

Roku March 1 announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire Nielsen’s Advanced Video Advertising business, which includes video automatic content recognition and “dynamic” ad insertion technologies. The acquisition will help accelerate Roku’s attempt to offer TV advertisers spots to targeted consumers. In addition, Nielsen and Roku will enter into a strategic partnership to integrate Nielsen’s ad and content measurement products into its platform and further advance Nielsen’s cross-media measurement solution.

“Tens of billions of dollars continue to be spent annually on traditional TV advertising,” Louqman Parampath, VP of product management at Roku, said in a statement. “Combining Nielsen’s technology with [our] ad tech and scale, will enable us to deliver the benefits of TV streaming advertising to [linear] TV.”

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Parampath believes Roku will now be able to sell targeted ads to marketers at scale — creating easier integration and additional revenue opportunities for programmers’ ad sales teams, and improving the TV experience for viewers.

This announcement builds on years of close collaboration between Roku and Nielsen. The two companies will enter into a long-term commercial agreement to leverage Nielsen’s “Total Ad Ratings” software on the Roku platform. Specifically, Roku’s media sales and ad-buying platform, OneView, will integrate Nielsen “always on” Digital Ad Ratings for advertisers. Roku will also enable publishers to implement Nielsen Digital Content Ratings.

“The measurement of ads and content on Roku devices will accelerate the path to a single, deduplicated cross-media currency,” said Scott N. Brown, GM of audience measurement at Nielsen. “As Roku brings the power of dynamic ad insertion to all forms of TV, we’re excited to help monetize the addressable market by measuring smart TV as a currency, which Nielsen can do at scale.”

The collaboration with Roku will substantially expand the footprint of smart TVs and other devices, nearing 100 million in total, in which Nielsen can enable media sellers and buyers to measure and better monetize addressable advertising.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021, subject to customary closing conditions. Roku, the fourth-largest branded TV seller in the U.S.,  said its models already include automatic content recognition, and will include dynamic ad insertion in the near future.

Comcast’s Matt Strauss Discusses How Peacock Spread Its Wings During a Pandemic

Launching NBCUniversal’s new flagship streaming service Peacock might have seemed a daunting task under normal circumstances — but it took on new challenges during a pandemic.

Still, Matt Strauss and his team knew there were many ways Peacock could spread its wings.

Strauss, chairman of direct-to-consumer and international at Comcast, is responsible for all aspects of Peacock, among other duties. The AVOD/SVOD hybrid service has gathered 26 million total subscribers, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell revealed Dec. 8.

Strauss told attendees Dec. 15 at DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group’s virtual pre-CES event that Peacock, which launched in July, is designed to fill an important niche in the increasingly competitive streaming marketplace — and that it has a long-term strategy.

“When we launched Peacock, we really wanted to keep our heads down,” he said. “It was really about execution. We thought that there was an opportunity to surprise and delight people with something that we believe is unique in the market, but at the same time, one of our mantras has really been it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

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One initial curveball during launch was the postponement of the Olympics, which had been designed as must-see programming on the new streaming service, to be boosted by an elaborate marketing campaign.

“I’m always a very optimistic person by nature, and I always look for a silver lining,” Strauss said. “I think that there was a silver lining because the week that we were planning to launch nationally for the Olympics — it would have been great in many respects — but at the same time it was a kind of very concentrated way that we were going to launch during the few weeks of the Olympics, and what we ended up doing is coming up with a similar plan, but we spread it out across the back half of the year, and I think that that gave us this ongoing cadence and drumbeat that, from a marketing standpoint, I believe, was actually better than what we had initially planned.”

There was another bright side.

“We actually thought that in a small way Peacock could benefit with everything that was going on in the world, giving people another entertainment option,” he said.

Another advantage Peacock had was companywide expertise and products supporting a service that “really taps into every part of Comcast,” he said. The platform is built from Sky’s Snap TV OTT service, NBCUniversal powered a lot of the programming, and Comcast’s cable unit offered on demand knowledge.

“I myself come from Comcast cable,” he said. “I’ve been at Comcast for 16 years, so I’ve had a front row seat in the evolution that we’ve gone through as a company with the development of X1 and Flex, broadband products. When it came to Peacock, you really had stakeholders from all the different parts of the company with different experiences that were brought to the table when it came to design.”

Peacock tapped Comcast’s X1 and Flex (Internet-only) customers to refine the user interface by offering its premium service to them first at no additional cost in April.

“It was a really interesting sandbox, and we wanted to use three months to really harden the application,” he said.

Executives didn’t want Peacock to be a “me too” service, so they combined the experience of watching linear TV with on-demand components and a unique “trending” feature, tapping into how younger generations interact with video. They also decided to offer ads, in a departure from other new services Disney+ and Apple TV+, as well as established SVOD player Netflix.

“We know the trends that everybody else is looking at,” he said. “You’re continuing to see pay-TV decline, not really because people don’t like pay television, but because they’re getting priced out. The average cable or satellite bill is $85 a month. And then you’re looking at a service like Netflix, which has done a very good job at creating a good price-value equation, that others are moving towards, and you know there’s a lot of competition in the streaming space and it’s only grown in past 18 months, and a lot of it is trying to go after Netflix, and we realized that that wasn’t really where we thought the opportunity was for us.”

They decided on offering a free, ad-supported component to combat this subscription fatigue.

“At some point, when you’re paying for internet and now two, three or four subscription services, I think for some people it becomes frustrating,” he said.

The Peacock team also concentrated on offering a unique product.

“Our ambition with Peacock is to really position ourselves as the premium ad-supported aggregation streaming service,” he said. “We didn’t call ourselves NBC+. We didn’t call ourselves that for a reason — because we wanted to position ourselves as an aggregator that can go beyond the boundaries of our catalog and our content. But we also believe as we continue to produce more programming, add more content, that there’s also an opportunity for us to migrate customers to subscription.”

They also knew there was an opportunity to address a need in the advertising community as more eyeballs were moving to streaming.

“There was a pent-up demand that was growing with advertisers looking for the ability to participate,” he said. “But they want to participate with premium content, and there weren’t a lot of options in the streaming space that they could participate in that way, and we saw that as a sweet spot for us.”

In contrast to other ad-supported streaming services, Peacock has a more user-friendly ad load of no more than five minutes of ads per hour, he said.

“We felt really fortunate that we were able to secure 10 premium launch sponsors with Peacock, and the benefit is that they get an uncluttered environment,” he said. “They also have a seat at the table as we’re developing the product because in many respects our ambition is really not just to look at this as a 15-second spot or a 30-second spot but how do we start to find other creative ways through ad innovation that we can bring the advertisers to light.”

Unlike other services, Peacock also avoids repeating ads to a customer over and over again.

“Even if it’s a limited ad load, there’s nothing more frustrating in my opinion than seeing the same ad in different pods while you’re watching a show,” he said.

Looking into 2021, Strauss sees a wealth of programming coming, in part due to production slowdowns and the Olympics delay.

“The Olympics got shifted, and now next year, we’ll almost have two Olympics within a relatively short amount of time,” he said. “Even though we were able to launch over a dozen original series this year, we had more planned, and now we’re going to have more next year than we had initially contemplated because of COVID.”

The service in January will serve up a Wild Card game with the NFL, and then there’s the sitcom juggernaut “The Office,” which also hits the service that month. NBCUniversal outbid Netflix, on which “The Office” reigned as one of the top programs, to bring the comedy to Peacock.

“We’ve got some exciting things in how we can present ‘The Office’ in a way that’s maybe a little bit more unique than what people have seen in the past,” he said.

The first two seasons (2005-06) of the series will be available for free with ads, while subsequent seasons, in addition to “Superfan Episodes,” will be available on Peacock Premium for $4.99 monthly with ads; $9.99 without ads. The “Superfan Episodes” offer unseen footage, extended cuts and deleted scenes.

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Having tried to launch an on-demand service almost 20 years ago, Strauss said he feels “almost like a kid in a candy store” with the technology and marketplace Peacock is in today.

“I feel fortunate that I was almost given an opportunity to do it again, but to do it in a way where the technology has evolved, clearly audiences and users have evolved, and the distribution has grown significantly,” he said.

Starting a streaming VOD service from scratch has been a unique opportunity, he said.

“I’ve got this sandbox,” he said. “I can really try to push the envelope to where I think the puck is going with what people are looking for, and the bar’s lower because I’m starting with almost no subscribers, so it’s an opportunity for us to iterate quickly, learn quickly.”

Vizio Appoints Former AMC Networks, Dish Exec VP of Network Partnerships

Consumer electronics company Vizio has appointed former AMC Networks and Dish executive Adam Gaynor VP of network partnerships.

In this role, Gaynor will help build direct relationships with networks across Vizio’s SmartCast platform and its advertiser-direct business unit Vizio Ads.

“Adam’s addition to the team represents Vizio’s continued focus and investment in driving the future of TV,” Mike O’Donnell, chief revenue officer at Vizio, said in a statement. “Not only does Adam have extensive experience working with networks, but he has been at the forefront of championing addressable advertising, going back to his previous efforts driving live linear addressable advertising at AMC Networks and Dish.”

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In addition to spearheading network relationships, Gaynor will be heavily involved in advancing Project Open Addressable Ready (Project OAR), a technology consortium led by Vizio and created to advance the development and deployment of a new, open standard for addressable advertising on connected TVs. The consortium recently announced live market trials with network partners such as Fox, ViacomCBS, NBCUniversal, E.W. Scripps and AMC Networks.

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“Vizio is building the next generation of home entertainment, powered by data and personalized consumer experiences,” Gaynor said in a statement. “I’m excited to join the team to advance VIZIO’s initiatives on the network and addressable front, enabling advertisers to deliver more precise messages to their intended audiences at the right time.”

Before joining Vizio, Gaynor was most recently VP of AMCN Agility, the data solutions sales team for AMC Networks. There, he created and oversaw the development and monetization of all advanced and data-driven TV advertising opportunities across the AMC Networks portfolio. He also served as VP, media sales and analytics for Dish Network, where he led the company’s media sales division, inclusive of all addressable, interactive, programmatic and OTT initiatives. Gaynor also held posts at Game Show Network, Comcast and CBS.

Hulu Launches Ad-Assist Program for Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses

Hulu has launched the Creative Partner Program to assist small- and medium-sized businesses in creating advertising on the service.

The program offers access to “creative partners who are specially trained in Hulu best practices, and have expertise creating unique, non-templated ads for smaller businesses at all stages of the advertising creative process,” according to Faye Trapani, director of self-service platform sales.

The Creative Partner Program currently consists of four partners: GeneroShuttlerockQuickFrame and VidMob.

The service helps smaller businesses to design a program “whether an advertiser is repurposing an existing video for streaming TV or ‘baking from scratch,’” according to Trapani.

The Creative Partner Program offers a range of production options and price points.

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ViacomCBS Announces Fall Launch of EyeQ Ad Platform

ViacomCBS announced the planned fall 2020 launch of ViacomCBS EyeQ, a connected video advertising platform that will serve as a single transactional point of entry for digital video content from the company’s portfolio of broadcast, entertainment, news and sports networks, according to the company.

EyeQ will bring together all of the company’s connected video assets — including BET, CBS Television Network, CBS All Access, CBSN, CBS Sports HQ, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, Pluto TV and VH1 — allowing advertisers to access a viewing audience that measures 50 million full-episode monthly unique viewers in the United States, and 150 million across all content and all devices, according to the company.

“The launch of EyeQ marks the arrival of one of the biggest premium video platforms in digital media,” John Halley, chief operating officer of advertising revenue at ViacomCBS, said in a statement. “In unifying the operating backend and go-to-market of three large pre-existing players — CBS Interactive, Pluto TV, and Viacom Video — we have consolidated a massive audience footprint that will deliver quality, scale, and capabilities that cannot be matched.”

“EyeQ is game changing,” David Lawenda, EVP of digital sales and strategy at ViacomCBS, said in a statement. “It is a portal into 50 million highly engaged, full-episode viewers watching our content each month, with 80% of the consumption happening on TV glass. And ViacomCBS can now offer unified buying and frequency control across all of that scale, which is aligned to the needs of an advertising marketplace that is increasingly focused on incremental reach.”

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EyeQ will simplify transactions and reporting across the company’s digital offering and will support a variety of transactional models depending on advertiser preference, including programmatic guaranteed and private marketplace. It will offer multiple lanes of activation, including:

  • content segments, allowing advertisers to verticalize spend under scaled content categories;
  • broad demos, allowing advertisers to maximize reach across all viewership and platforms;
  • strategic segments, allowing advertisers to leverage syndicated behavioral sets or custom audiences through ad platform Vantage; and
  • creative, allowing advertisers to customize immersive brand experiences for greater impact through integrations, custom creative, influencers, and live experiences.

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EyeQ will also introduce a new reporting infrastructure to provide real-time data and tactical campaign guidance for advertisers to track spending across platforms, according to the company. Additionally, EyeQ will offer a range of solutions to measure the effectiveness of campaigns, including ad quality metrics, brand lift, attribution and social sentiment.

Roku Partners With Kroger for Shopper Data Program

Roku June 8 announced the launch of a new shopper data program to make online TV advertising more precise and measurable for CPG (consumer packaged goods) marketers. Kroger, the nation’s largest supermarket chain, plans to join the program as the launch partner to build first-to-market targeting and attribution tools for streaming TV.

With more than 40 million registered users in the United States and 13.2 billion hours streamed during Q1 2020, streaming video pioneer Roku is looking to expand its media reach into TV advertising. Los Gatos, Calif.-based Roku’s ad-supported branded AVOD channel boasted 56 million viewers in 2019.

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Completion of the integration will give marketers access to Kroger data to measure ad campaign performance across the Roku platform, as well as tools from Roku to measure the effectiveness of linear TV built on what it claims is the largest licensed TV operating system in North America.

With the economy hit hard by shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, CPG marketers are seeking advanced data solutions to make TV advertising more relevant and performance-driven.

Targeted advertising can increase effectiveness and minimize ad waste while achieving the scale CPG marketers require, according to Roku. For instance, Kroger could help marketers segment messages to high-volume category buyers, customers who occasionally buy a category, or those who buy a complementary category.

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The new shopper data program will provide Kroger sales information to help marketers make smarter media buying decisions. Marketers will be able to use the program to activate advertising across hundreds of ad-supported channels on America’s No.1 streaming platform (by hours streamed according to Kantar) and to tie ad exposure directly to in-store and online sales.

Kroger compiles consumer data from 60 million households across nearly 2,800 Kroger stores. With streaming TV (and AVOD) accelerating, Kroger said sought a market leader in OTT to bring accurate identity and viewing data founded in a direct consumer relationship.

“TV streaming brings digital-like precision to the big screen,” Cara Pratt, VP of commercial and product strategy, Kroger precision marketing, said in a statement.

“We believe that all TV ads will be targeted and measurable,” added Alison Levin, VP of ad sales and strategy, Roku. “Our new shopper data program will make it easier and more effective for CPG advertisers to shift spend to streaming and focus on value for every ad dollar spent.”

WarnerMedia Absorbs Xandr Ad Platform

AT&T continues to rejigger its media operations, combining WarnerMedia and ad platform Xandr for what the telecom claims will be a better advertising value proposition for brands, publishers and consumers. Gerhard Zeiler, chief revenue officer of WarnerMedia and president of WarnerMedia International, will oversee all advertising responsibilities across AT&T.

The merger was foreshadowed last month when Brian Lesser, CEO of Xandr, abruptly resigned, creating some uncertainty about the future the advertising unit.

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​Kirk McDonald, chief business officer of Xandr will continue to lead the unit, reporting directly to Zeiler. The merged goal is to accelerate new advertising formats by 2021 for HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s high-profile subscription streaming video service launching this month. ​

“Now more than ever, we need to simplify advertising and further our marketplace capabilities for our customers,” Zeiler said in a statement.

As the lines between TV and digital video continue to converge, Xandr’s platform aims to make it easier for ad buyers/sellers to find audiences across multiple distribution screens.

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“This is done through one holistic conversation that spans premium content and trusted environments, alongside proven and advanced ad capabilities,” Zeiler said.