Inside How Innovid Formed An Ad Tech Supergroup To Scale Interactive Ads In CTV

"On TV And Video" is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

About six years ago, ad server Innovid introduced interactive ads in CTV. Now, about a third of Innovid’s clients are testing them, and the company is seeing 2% to 3% engagement rates that are four or five times higher compared to other ad formats, Innovid CEO and Co-founder Zvika Netter said.

At a time when ad spend in CTV is booming – programmatic CTV impressions grew 207% year over year in 2021 – Netter said that it was time to take things to the next level by making the purchase of interactive ads in CTV available programmatically.

This week, Innovid announced that it has teamed up with The Trade Desk and Magnite to do just that.

The company worked on building the consortium – dubbed Programmatic Interactive Connected TV – for more than a year to boost the delivery of programmatic ads in CTV with ecommerce capabilities, including QR codes and app downloads. The ad units include features like creative overlays, viewer prompts for mobile devices and in-ad experiences like two-minute movie trailers. The interactive ads are powered by Innovid’s proprietary software development kit (SDK) through direct integrations across over 50 publisher apps.

In what he called an industry first, Netter said that brands and agencies can now activate interactive ads programmatically through The Trade Desk and other DSP partners to improve CTV ad performance and deliver engaging creative at scale, while the partnership with SSPs such as Magnite allows publishers to increase revenue by tapping into the rapidly growing demand for programmatic CTV.

Netter spoke to AdExchanger about how Innovid introduced the technology and brought in the top buy-side and sell-side platforms.

AdExchanger: What does this partnership allow advertisers to do that they couldn’t do before?

ZVIKA NETTER: What this allows people to do is really turn CTV into a digital platform that allows people to engage.

The major milestone here is that you can now buy [interactive ads in CTV] programmatically. Until now, it was publisher-specific in apps – you could only do this on Hulu and Roku – and you couldn’t buy it through a platform programmatically.

You can come to Innovid, or The Trade Desk or Magnite and say, “I want to run interactive CTV ads programmatically, what do I need to do?” And any of these partners for those technologies – it doesn't have to come from us – could sell it.

Why did Innovid choose to join forces with the Trade Desk and Magnite?

The programmatic component was one of the hurdles that was slowing down adoption.

Basically, what this does is take out the friction – you create this interactive unit, you go to The Trade Desk and you buy media that is enabled. And then it goes from The Trade Desk to Magnite, and they manage all the publishers that support this technology. This is how the bidding works.

The process was kind of cumbersome – it limited your ability in where you can go and buy media.

If you wanted to buy programmatically before, the programmatic platform didn't know whether the SDK was installed or not, so we had to map it. So, imagine you want to buy programmatically, and want to run this exciting unit, you can't because the bidder doesn't know where this technology exists.

We had to partner with Magnite and The Trade Desk because they will have this live catalog of where this technology sits.

When will advertisers be able to execute on this partnership?

We have several brands and many publishers that are already live, so we have campaigns that are already running on this. We already have millions of impressions running through this.

Are you jointly producing a product or offering a service? How should we be thinking about it?

Innovid created the technology that makes this thing happen. We see our role as innovators and tech-enablers in this world with so many silos and walled gardens. Somebody needs to have a role to make stuff work.

Companies like The Trade Desk, Roku and Hulu all compete in different ways — they’re not going to collaborate on each other’s technology. We built this technology to allow marketers to take CTV to the next level. Our clients can buy media through you and work with you on this new type of technology.

What sort of inventory is available in this kind of marketplace and from whom?

We have all this premium CTV inventory. Some of the names include Hulu and Roku. It’s up to the marketers in terms of what type of inventory they want to buy, because of those publishers’ integrations with us. It’s mostly premium publishers … most of the big names.

You’re still using The Trade Desk interface, so you can select a list of publishers where this technology is enabled. It basically gives an option of where you want [the ad] to run. It’s less about aggregating inventory – it’s more of a consortium of publishers that install our technology and are ready to run your interactive CTV ads.

Follow Anthony Rifilato (@Tone1870) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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