A strong user experience is necessary to drive positive brand affinity for both the content owner and the advertiser to engage consumers on any screen successfully, be it on a living room TV, mobile phone, or OOH screen.
On the second day of Advertising Week New York 2022, Insider Inc. reporter Lara O’Reilly sat down with SVP, Advertising Sales at FuboTV, Lynnette Kaylor, General Manager at SpringServe, Joseph Hirsch, and Chief Revenue Officer at Loop Media, Bob Gruters, to discuss why their companies are hyper-focused on providing users with great ad experiences.
O’Reilly: As a way of introduction, could you give me an example of what a good user experience looks like for your companies?
Gruters: At Loop Media, we program and curate the content in retail businesses and sell advertising against it. So for us, user experience matters incredibly so, because if you walk into a bar, restaurant, or bowling alley, you are not going there to watch a half-hour segment of Modern Family. The content has to feel endemic to the place. For example, at an Italian restaurant, the owners may want to show drone footage of beautiful landscapes, the Coliseum, or olive orchards. We have to make sure we can supply that type of content and ads that complement that.
Kaylor: FuboTV is the leading sports-first live TV streaming platform out there. We offer over 50,000 live sporting events per year, but we also believe in a diversified content offering. It’s important for our users to get the right content at the right time and have an easy-to-navigate platform. We’re collecting data constantly to ensure that everything is personalized towards them.
We’re also very cognizant about where we place various ads and when. We have banner ads that clients can use to drive audiences to a certain upcoming program. Or, let’s say you’re a food delivery service, and you know that there’s a big game coming on — you can serve an ad to viewers tailored to that moment. We’re intentional with our ads and ensure we don’t clutter the platform. We just ranked #1 in Customer Satisfaction among live TV streaming providers by J.D. Power, and a lot of that is because we have such a user-friendly and clean platform to use.
Hirsch: As an ad server, the goal for us is never to put the consumer in a position where they see ad content that doesn’t represent the brand’s ethos. We’re the last line of defense between the consumer and the advertiser. You have to minimize, if not bring down to zero, every circumstance that compromises the user experience. We like to give our clients the flexibility to set the rules of how they want their ads run. In a very basic competitive separation example, you don’t want to run a Ford ad next to a Chevy ad. However, some marketers or publishers might have a more relaxed approach and prioritize revenue over ad experience. Our goal is never to create policy. Our goal is to enable our clients to execute the ad policy that they see fit.
O’Reilly: Do you have examples of when improving user experience also improved business results?
Kaylor: We’re a big believer in interactive entertainment. For example, we have a Multiview experience, where you can watch four games across four channels simultaneously, which is great from a sports perspective on the weekend. We have free-to-play games to engage our audience further and encourage them to stay on the platform longer. These elements help differeniate the product experience on Fubo.
Hirsch: At SpringServe, we can personalize how much advertising we serve each consumer in proportion to the content they consume. If someone just subscribed to a service, we can pare back the ads, so the viewer isn’t hit with two 90-second ad blocks back-to-back when they’re new to the service. Then, we can increase the ads based on their tolerance. So, for viewers that consume content religiously and watch everything no matter what, that’s an opportunity to say, “Well, this person’s ad experience can be a little longer.” We cater the user experience to consumption habits, which improves long-term engagement and, hopefully, revenue.
O’Reilly: Do you see ad formats becoming more innovative to create a more seamless experience?
Gruters: At Loop Media, we play with ad formats, and we do it by looking at location versus consumer. Ideally, you want the ad to feel natural to the environment or establishment it is playing in. We constantly played with ad load in January and February this year and found a really good groove that businesses have responded to. We also can tailor the content itself to the environment. For example, with upcoming midterm elections, we’re getting comments like, “Hey, this bar is all-Democrat, and you played a Republican ad. Can you change that?” Because all ads are created equal. If you’re going to get one, you’re going to get all of them. So, if you don’t want political ads in your establishment, let us know. We’ll turn them off. Our players are addressable. That’s the fine-tuning that creates a better experience.
Hirsch: I think an interesting thing to contemplate is that an ad break is, essentially, an interruptive experience. It breaks up the continuity between the content, and then you have non-interruptive ads, like ads that can be paused or sponsored. Regarding monetization, ultimately, if you’re balancing the user experience, you could add in non-interruptive formats, which will increase revenue without adding more mayo to the sandwich, as it were.
Kaylor: We have banner ads that almost seem part of the platform, just like you’ll see in a traditional MVPD. They’re unobtrusive. We also have our own Fubo Sports Network, where we bring the athletes into our users’ homes. We can have that programming sponsored. For example, we can have someone drinking a certain soda brand. That gives us other revenue streams and advertising opportunities that are less interruptive.
O’Reilly: How do you turn the user experience into a value add, be it for your client, the platform, or the end user? I’m thinking about things like solving for volume normalization, lag, etc. How much is that at the top of your agenda?
Hirsch: Again, our responsibility is never to create an experience with an ad that causes the person to stop using the service. It’s a delicate environment. To your point, if the ad is too loud and the ad is for Lexus, you might have a negative association with Lexus. My goal is never to have blood on my hands. That means looking at ad load, competitive separation, sound quality, and pod deduplication – which allows publishers to avoid showing the same ad more than once in a commercial break.
O’Reilly: What metrics do you use to measure a good user experience?
Gruters: We measure time. We have a business portal where you can see how long a retail establishment has kept a content player on relative to how long the business is open. If the business is open for eight hours, and the content player was on for two hours, that probably indicates a bad user experience. But if they’re open for 12 hours, and we’re on for 12 hours, we know the experience is likely positive.
Kaylor: A range of things. We do brand lift studies, we work with Nielsen, and we work with other currencies. Often, it’s dictated by the client and who they want to work with. The measurement aspect of CTV is still in its early days, but given the addressability factor, we can do a lot of really unique things.
Hirsch: There are tons of stats that can be pulled from this digital advertising technology, but you have to find something that has meaning. For a TV-style app, things like content consumption per user per month are meaningful. How many minutes did each user watch per month? You can generally say that the more content consumed, the better the user experience probably was, especially in ad-supported environments.