TripleLift Aims To Insert Itself Into The CTV Conversation Using Native Ads

TripleLift claims it’s the world’s largest source of in-feed inventory. It built a server-side header-bidding wrapper specifically for native ads in 2017 and has a portfolio of in-feed native ad units to help publishers monetize.

But can the same ad experience work for CTV?

Although Netflix is planning to dismount from its ad-free high horse to deal with its subscriber slump, the fact is most viewers don’t want to be interrupted by ads.

That’s why native product placements could be a viable alternative to interruptive ad experiences – and a cash cow for CTV publishers, said Michael Shields, GM of CTV at TripleLift.

“There’s a hundred billion dollars of global TV ad spend that won’t have enough places to go if consumers [continue to] opt into platforms with no ads or fewer ads,” he said.

But inserting ads in programming is hard. It’s “not [very] scalable and it’s hard to execute,” Shields admitted.

The question is whether it’s worth the effort.

HeavyLift

TripleLift has been serving native ads in other channels, such as mobile, for the past decade. But in 2019, the company brought on Shields as GM of CTV to try building a native biz for the big screen.

It started with testing. TripleLift “canvassed the marketplace” for four to five months, Shields said, then put together a control group of viewers to track their attention on-screen using eye-tracking technology.

TripleLift then used machine learning to analyze the data and identify potential spots for on-screen placements, Shields said.

After determining the best moments within an episode to trigger a product placement, TripleLift uses AI to render 2D and 3D images and server-side ad insertion technology to place the image via a VAST tag. Afterward, TripleLift tracks video completion rates, brand lift, social engagement and the level of binge-watching.

In October, TripleLift partnered with Amagi, a cloud-based software provider for broadcast and CTV, so it could insert branded imagery programmatically into episodes of CTV programming.

Meanwhile, 1plusX, the first-party data management platform TripleLift acquired in March, provides additional contextual-based audience data to help find relevant ad spots, Shields said.

Pics or it didn’t happen

For now, TripleLift’s CTV ambitions are more aspirational than actual. It’s laying the groundwork and building its case to attract ad dollars.

In 2021, TripleLift released a study that found when brands pair a 30-second CTV ad pod with a 10-second product placement, the result is a 67% increase in brand lift. In comparison, brands with two 30-second slots saw a 51% increase.

Brand recall is also higher because “people are more engaged when the programming is in-screen,” said Shields, who noted that programmatic product placements are even more effective when paired with a traditional ad spot.

Buyers “don’t have to buy as many commercials, and it yields better outcomes,” he said.

It’s a good playbook – but it’s unclear how many brands have played.

A TripleLift spokesperson told AdExchanger the company works with “dozens of content owners and streaming platforms,” including Vevo, Tastemade and Whistle TV, in addition to “early adopter brands,” such as Gray Whale Gin and FAT Brands-owned Johnny Rockets and Fatburger. So far, TripleLift can integrate ad opportunities into more than 48,000 episodes of CTV content.

But TripleLift declined to disclose how much advertisers are spending on programmatic ad placements or how much revenue it’s generated from the offering. TripleLift also declined to share an estimate of how many of its more than 1,000 digital publishing customers have used the offering.

Part of the challenge is a lot of ad tech companies have started to claim they have CTV advertising chops, and the space is very noisy. Companies, especially those that aren’t native to the TV space (pun intended), need to prove to advertisers their solutions are effective before they can get a foot in the market.

Magnite, for example, started off as a display-focused SSP and had to make big investments in video supply-side tech before it could legitimately claim itself to be a real CTV player.

Today, CTV makes up one-third of Magnite’s revenue.

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