Traditional TV advertising may have settled on a commercial break consisting of 30-second commercials a long time ago.

But, in the internet-connected TV (CTV) era, the old shapes are being rebooted.

In this video interview with Beet.TV, Dan Callahan, SVP of data strategy and sales innovation at Fox, describes how new technology is ushering in a wave of innovation that is re-thinking what TV advertising can be.

Rebooting the break

“The opportunity for it to be different is there,” Callahan says. “I think that’s a key piece here. We have moved linear-style breaks – four 30-seconds, or a couple of 15s and a couple of 30s – (into CTV) and really mirrored what was historically done in linear and supported that same strategy.

“The opportunities are really endless with, I think, the way you can re-imagine the pod, and that being from a structure standpoint but also from … ‘What does the break look like and how do I get to interact with it via my phone, via my connected device or my smart remote?’ It’s really exciting to see what is possible on the glass.”

Callahan’s Fox was relatively early on in the new-wave TV ads game. In 2014, it acquired TrueX, a tech vendor helping it reduce digital ad load to viewers who opt to engage with a TV ad. New Fox owner Disney has since sold TrueX.

New pods rising

Callahan says Fox and other networks are experimenting with what the ad break can do, including:

  • Faster breaks.
  • One of one ad insertion.
  • One of two ad insertion.
  • Shortening the commercial time.
  • Bringing the user back to content quicker.
  • “Absolute A” zones, supporting advertising before shows start.
  • Showing a pre-roll before uninterrupted content.
  • Interactivity that supports making purchases and sending coupons to phones.

For him, technology is driving a change in the shape of TV advertising.

Creative experiments

“I think we’re going to see people test and try different things with overlays and lower thirds, different prompts, things that really speak directly to you, whether that’s based on geography or based on audience,” Callahan says.

“It’s a really exciting time that you can reimagine these things. You can get creative, you can work strategically with clients to find out what they want the interruption to look like and what makes sense for really that great content to have an ad break that doesn’t feel like an ad break.

“I think it’s something we’ve talked about for years, but now we really have not only the screen and the content, but really the mechanics, and the technology behind it, to truly do things differently.”

Tech evolution

But the technology to deliver those ads is still developing.

Callahan is enthusiastic about header bidding – the technology that allows publishers to entertain ad bids from multiple demand sources simultaneously, thereby reaping higher yield – but that this is harder to implement in TV than it was in desktop display and mobile.

Furthermore, the CTV ecosystem is rather piecemeal.

Callahan hopes technology and specs can get more standardized in 2021, bringing the ability to switch out ad creative for different viewers much more easily.

“I hope that there’s better collaboration across the groups, and we can bring together a lot of the progress that’s made collectively,” he adds. “The rising tide will raise this opportunity.”

You are watching “Making CTV Happen: A New Ad Infrastructure Emerges,” a Beet.TV leadership video series presented by Publica. For more videos, please visit this page.