Video engagement advertising pioneer true[X] is looking to leverage the utility of voice-activated assistants and the power of live programming as it rolls out the next generation of attention-based video capabilities. “Engagement advertising is just the beginning,” says Pooja Midha, who recently joined true[X] as President.

At last week’s Beet Retreat in the City, Midha—whose background includes ABC, Viacom and Dow Jones—was one of the featured speakers along with Ashley J. Swartz, CEO of Furious Corp. In this one-on-one interview, Swartz asks about the utility of voice assistants in what she terms the “straddling of platforms and experiences.”

To Midha, it comes down to “breaking down that third wall. You want to bring someone into your ad creative. That’s when you really get to create that emotional connection that makes the difference between a product and a brand.”

Given the rise of in-home, voice-activated assistants and other ways consumers can talk to digital devices like laptops and mobile phones, Midha explains how the technology can induce viewer participation.

“So you can say, ‘turn off the lights.’ And the lights are going to turn off in the scene that you’re watching. You could say, ‘turn on the TV,’ and the TV inside the scene you’re watching of a living room is going to turn on and play your show.”

Asked by Swartz whether engagement with interactive ads is a generational thing, Midha says it’s all about the most appropriate creative. Her view is supported by the more than 10,000 engagement ads true[X] has executed in virtually every category “and pretty much every advertiser KPI we can think of.”

true[X] will be rolling out a new set of what Midha terms “engagement blueprints” based on “really strong database insights and learnings. So that’s how we see ourselves scaling.”

With the company having proven the efficacy of engagement ads in on-demand programming, she sees a huge opportunity in live programs like sports events and awards shows.

“Nothing captures people like live. What hasn’t evolved is the fact that we are streaming so many of these events and great moments on digital platforms and taking advantage of none of the capabilities that these digital platforms offer.”

One aspect of human behavior while watching live events is to pause the content. “When they come back, we give them the opportunity, if they’ve been gone long enough, we say ‘would you like to engage for thirty seconds or do you want to just pick up where you were?’”

If a viewer decides to engage for 30 seconds, they can skip the next commercial break and catch up in real time to where other viewers are with the game or program. “We have done a little bit of testing in terms of focus grouping the concept, we’ve built a live demo, we got really strong feedback,” says Midha, adding, “I just love the idea of not accepting live for what it is and saying, ‘this is already an amazing experience, let’s make it better.’”

This video was produced at the Beet Retreat in City & Town Hall on June 6, 2018 in New York City. The event and video series are presented by LiveRamp, TiVo, true[X] and 605. For more videos from the series, please visit this page.