Ad Break Evolution: Assembly Partners With Fox’s True[X]

MDC Partners’ media agency, Assembly, has forged a strategic deal with Fox’s true[X], whose products give consumers options in their video ad breaks.

The deal also gives true[X] more access to Assembly’s brand roster, like

Assembly and true[X] extended their partnership after collaborating on engagement-based ads for clients like the anti-tobacco nonprofit Truth.

While Assembly’s EVP and investment director, Francois Lee, declined to say what sort of commitments Assembly and true[X] have with each other, he said the agency’s clients aren’t compelled to spend with true[X] if they had existing partners they preferred to use.

“From a creative perspective, there is potential to execute campaigns across a wide spectrum, whether it’s driving to the lower funnel or more on the awareness-driven side of things,” Lee said.

True[X] emphasizes its ability to drive engagement, since people viewing its ad units can decide whether they view a longer, 60-second ad in exchange for a commercial-free viewing experience for the rest of an episode. Or, they may opt instead to view a series of shorter ad breaks backed by a presenting sponsor. 

“We created a model that values attention differently,” said Sam Amiri, SVP of sales and partnerships for true[X]. “It’s a model that shows you less ads by asking you to do a little more with that experience, rather than just hitting someone over the head with a 10x frequency and hoping one of those exposures sticks.”

True[x] originated in desktop video and more recently expanded into over-the-top and video on demand where linear TV companies are exploring incremental revenue opportunities to combat ratings declines.

At the same time, buyers know audiences are fatigued with traditional ad loads, and might either block ads altogether or migrate to ad-free services like Netflix.

“We’ve seen a departure away from conversations we had in the past, where [TV buyers] might ask us how to back into a GRP and now they’re asking how to pivot,” Amiri said. “Antiquated metrics like reach and frequency models aren’t … helping clients who are shifting dollars from TV to more interactive, data-based formats.”

One pillar of Assembly’s investment strategy is how the agency can move linear dollars into other mediums such as VOD and OTT.

Another focus for Assembly is examining pricing models associated with the new ad formats like true[X]’s.

“We used to go into the upfront focused on getting the rates, option terms and programs you want, which for the most part is still the case, but the conversation has evolved to data, measurement and tech, if necessary,” Lee added. “A lot of upfront discussion impacts how we invest for the rest of the year.”

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