Maven Unveils Internet TV Ad Platform and Forum

Pre-roll video ads are “disruptive and intrusive” to the Internet TV experience, say the people at Internet TV platform builder Maven Networks.

They’ve designed a platform for delivering ads to Internet TV viewers that, they say, avoids the pitfalls of pre-roll and also makes educated guesses about the appropriate time during a video when less-obtrusive types of ads should be delivered.

“Pre-roll is, first and foremost, a format really driven by [broadcast] television,” said Maven Vice President of Product Management Todd Boes. “The :15 or :30 TV… really was a convenient way for media publishers to take those formats and throw them online.” Boes said people might be willing to put up with long commercials that run prior to their favorite full-length TV shows, but when they want some quick Internet TV entertainment, they’re not often willing to sit through a pre-roll ad.

“The challenge we’ve seen is that most online video content is shorter and it can be quite annoying, especially if you are searching for video and clicking around certain video titles, to have to sit through a :30 TV commercial,” said Boes.

He and Maven Vice President of Marketing Kristen Fergason said the company’s new platform eschews pre-roll and allows for in-video, interactive ads that can appear in the form of transparent overlays and make use of video telescoping technology. “Our new ad platform really breaks down the barriers,” said Fergason. “We’re introducing new platforms, not re-purposed TV ads. They are visually appealing and non-intrusive and they can be inserted anywhere in the video stream.”

Boes and Fergason said one really innovative feature of the new platform is its ability to determine the best time, in each TV clip, for an ad to appear. This is accomplished through Maven’s proprietary dynamic ad-insertion engine, a program that calculates the optional time to display ads based on historical use analytics such as user viewing behavior, video popularity and associated metadata.

“It mines that information and it can, on the fly, determine the optimal insertion points within these video streams,” said Boes. “For example, you click on a piece of video that’s five minutes long and let’s say our ad insertion engine knows the average viewing time for that clip is only :60. The insertion engine can say, ‘I’m going to serve an overlay ad at the :45 mark because I know, on average, the consumer is not going to watch any more than :60.’ It makes sure there’s an inventory slot prior to the consumer bailing off that clip.”

Sometimes, the engine will even opt to spare the viewer, noted Boes. “If you click on a video clip that’s only :30 long, by knowing that video clip’s length, the insertion engine can make a determination, ‘This is very short … I may choose to insert an ad, but maybe the clip is too short and I’m not. Or maybe, at the half-way mark, I might put up a non-intrusive overlay ad.”

With any ad delivered by the platform, the view can choose to either ignore or click. If they choose to interact, the platform can do a variety of functions. “If they click on it, it might launch into a more traditional TV ad or give the consumer more video content or a place to look-up the nearest dealer.

“All the information is brought back into the video player so the consumer never has to leave, which is great for both the media publisher and for the consumer,” noted Boes. He said consumer activity is all measurable. “It’s not uncommon now for some consumers to spend minutes engaging with a consumer brand, but what’s different is it’s on their terms as opposed to the having the advertiser forcing the terms on the consumer,” he said.

Simultaneous to unveiling its new ad platform, Maven announced the creation of the Internet TV Advertising Forum, described as an industry collaboration that will work to “define next-generation online video advertising standards.”

Inaugural members include Fox News, Scripps Network, Ogilvy, Digitas, CanWest, TV Guide, 4Kids TV, Atlas, DoubleClick, and 24/7 Real Media. “What we wanted to make sure we did is have the right people in the room,” said Fergason. “We didn’t want to create [the ad platform] in a technology vacuum. We decided to go out and we founded the Internet TV Advertising Forum where we brought these companies together in one room in September.”

The forum will meet regularly and plans to publish, by the end of the year, the results of a research project designed to identify and test new video ad formats.

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