October 20, 2010 – One of the sleepers in the emergence of television manufacturers as service providers looking for a play in advertising is the fact that sophisticated hardware built into their sets allows them to offer functionalities to advertisers that might help offset their lack of market penetration.
So far, manufacturers have been very quiet about their plans, although, as previously reported (April, p. 18), they’ve been knocking on advertising agency doors to learn more about their options and to make it known they’re in the hunt. The Wall Street Journal recently reported Sony is looking at offering ad avails in front of premium content playing on their connected TVs, Blu-ray players and PlayStation 3 video consoles, possibly within a few months.
The fact that these players are delivering their services over broadband, of course, provides them a ready IP-based platform for interactivity, as was evidenced in the Mountain Dew campaign PepsiCo launched this past summer with Microsoft’s Xbox Live. The hook for engagement was the ability of Xbox users to vote on new flavors of Mountain Dew.
The problem with these scenarios is they rely on affiliations between the manufacturer and programmers or advertisers who want to work with them on specialized campaigns that are unique to their platforms and user interfaces. Coming at the whole CE ad proposition from another angle, a startup in Mountain View, California, Zeitera, is offering a solution based on electronic fingerprinting technology that could give manufacturers a play in linear TV advertising.
Zeitera wants to provide manufacturers an opportunity to offer value-add marketing opportunities to advertisers on ads running in any linear TV programming viewers are watching on their connected TVs, including cable and broadcast that is not part of the manufacturer’s over-the-top offering, explains Zeitera CEO Dan Eakins. “The idea we’ve had is let’s not change linear TV,” he says. “Let’s focus on a big market that needs some level of interactivity.”
As demonstrated at the Media Innovations Summit conference in late September, Zeitera’s platform applies video analytics in the pixel domain to calculate a set of information about what’s showing, which is then delivered as metadata into the storage center of Zeitera’s in-the-cloud service. In this fashion the TV set equipped with the Zeitera detection system can identify what ad each viewer is watching without requiring any kind of flag or indicator to be embedded in the ad upstream, Eakins notes.
“It’s just basically all video and audio content,” Eakins says. “We’re analyzing that and putting it in a data base.” Advertisers can use that information as the basis for instantaneously delivering offers to viewers based on what is known about their preferences.
In the demo, the application, developed in-house by Zeitera, entailed sending a discount coupon to a person’s iPhone as he watched a Macy’s ad, with the offer tied to the knowledge that the viewer in this instance was a middle-aged male. “Coupons delivered to an iPhone are just one idea,” Eakins says. “The possibilities are really endless. Think about a widget on a smart TV knowing what the content is. You could actually build a widget that does something really interesting.”
While apps can be built for an iPhone or other devices which users might be prompted to pay attention to as they encounter certain ads, there’s no need to go outside the interactive circuit available over the broadband connection. Since the TV is connected, any application triggered in the cloud can be triggered in response to a message from the cloud by the widget on the TV set.
The key benefit is that there’s no upstream infrastructure required to support identification of advertising content or to trigger an application based on what’s in the ad, Eakins notes. The entire process is independent of service providers and ad schedules, allowing the consumer electronics manufacturers to deal directly with advertisers to provide a means of enhancing their messages and gaining the attention of any viewer who happens to be watching their ads on a Zeitera-optimized connected TV.
“All the search infrastructure is run in the cloud,” Eakins explains. “Everything goes back into a cloud-based service, and we’re envisioning the company working as an ad-based cloud service. The idea is let’s build it into the chips and TVs and let it be available as a service and then let other people leverage this as a service and build more interesting applications.”
Zeitera is just getting started, so there’s no knowing what the reaction to its proposition will be in the consumer electronics community. Nor is it clear yet what the business model will be with respect to how revenues are shared, Eakins says. “We’re still working out exactly who gets what, but the idea is you have an ad-supported service,” he adds. “If you allow this to work on your TV then we can give you a share of the upstream revenue.”