Interactive television specialist Ensequence said it has developed a distributor-agnostic interactive advertising system called AdConneqt+ that, it claims, will provide nationwide reach because it’s designed to work across various cable, satellite and telco TV platforms, as well as on connected, “smart” televisions.
Ensequence, which will formally announce the new product on Wednesday, said the plan with AdConneqt+ is to serve as a middleman of sorts between distributors and programmers and offer simplified terms that place a premium on the interactive element that’s layered onto traditional 30-second TV ads. That interactive, highly-measurable advertising “upgrade” will allow users, for example, to press a button on the remote to request a coupon, a product sample or another form of additional information associated with the live TV spot.
If that sounds familiar, it should. Ensequence played a key role in developing an EBIF-based request-for-information (RFI) system that Canoe, the cable-operator backed advanced advertising joint venture, deployed before the J.V. scaled back, shut down its ITV efforts, and focused solely on dynamic ad insertion for video-on-demand (VOD). Ensequence said the platform it originally developed for Canoe helped to create the basis of AdConneqt+, but said it has added components and features that will enable it to run on a much broader array of standards-based platforms as well as proprietary interactive advertising systems.
To help simplify matters, Ensequence said AdConneqt+ is rooted by audio content recognition (ACR), a technology that detects the ads automatically and stitches the interactive component on the fly.
“We are creating a nationwide platform for interactive advertising,” Ensequence CEO Peter Low said. The idea, he added, is to integrate with each of those platforms so the “individual complexities are invisible to the programmer and the advertiser.”
“I know the advertising community will really grasp onto this and make their investment in television advertising just that more powerful,” added Ensequence chief operating officer David Kline, who joined the vendor this summer after serving as the president and COO of Cablevision Media Sales.
Kline, who ran interactive ad campaigns during his tenure at Cablevision, said the fixed premium/upcharge model for the interactive piece supplied by AdConneqt+ will make advanced advertising a simpler proposition for distributors and programmers in part because Ensequence takes take care of the technical heavy lifting, allowing its partners to stay focused on linear advertising sales. In the past, operators and programmers faced a more complex mix of fixed and variable costs as well as lead-based fees.
That older, more intricate business model “priced a lot of people out of the marketplace; it wasn’t easy to sell across a lot of networks,” Kline said.
Ensequence said it will launch AdConneqt+ commercially in the first quarter of 2014 with an initial group partners, including pay TV providers and TV manufacturers, that will be revealed in the fourth quarter of 2013. The company also predicts that its new interactive ad product will start with a reach of up to 20 million interactive TV homes and expand to 30 million to 40 million by the end of 2014 – enough, the company believes, to gain the attention of national advertisers.
“We have a few deals done,” Kline said.
Ensequence’s current crop of customers includes NBCUniversal, Viacom, CBS, Disney Channel, ESPN, Showtime, Turner Broadcasting, HBO, QVC, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Dish Network, CBS, Starz, Disney, Cablevision Systems, DirecTV and Verizon Communications, among others. Its web site also lists LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony as smart TV partners.
Low said Ensequence plans to stay focused on interactive advertising on the primary TV screen, which is still where the “core viewing experience” takes place, and layer in support for second screen apps later on.
“We are absolute believers in the power of the primary screen. If you’re an advertiser, you want that power,” Low said, noting that Ensequence has typically seen a 20% opt-in rate on interactive apps on the TV, well above the usage rates traditionally found on interactive advertising apps for smartphones and tablets.