Firefly's Best Ad Consumers Are Really Asking for It.
I wonder how bad of an online video advertising specimen I am. I don’t remember most ads. I don’t’ seem to be interested in most of them. I think I have negative brand loyalty. There are brands I actively avoid, and I don’t think there are many that I like.
I may be kidding myself, but I think I am not the person most likely to roll my cursor over a commercial online so I can see the entire thing play out. On the other hand, if I do, the advertiser should know I’m one of their customers or I probably want to be one.
So Exponential Interactive’s relaunch of Firefly Video and two new products from Firefly—Glow and Illuminate—shouldn’t involve me much. They are both based on the idea that I as a consumer will actively seek out their ad. And if I was looking for a car, searching for a big appliance, even-smarter smartphone or big deal on fast food, I might be enticed.
On the other hand, those ads would show up based on my screen with the aid of Exponential's e-X Advertising Intelligence Platform, which lets an advertiser find me through a taxonomy of 50,000 user interests and intentions at scale. Exponential's premium publisher network reaches more than 450 million unique monthly users worldwide, they say, so there’s a good chance I will end up getting a chance to accept their pitch soon.
If advertisers are using Firefly’s Glow or Illuminate, which were introduced near the beginning of the year, they’ll show a short recurring loop of their ad in a portion of the screen. If I want to see more I’ll slide my cursor over the ad, and the ad will expand, and if the client is an Illuminate customer, it will occupy the entire computer screen. Again, as a consumer—maybe shopping for a car?—I would have opted in to get this treatment.
For advertisers who want to be online with a traditional 30 second TV commercial, this is the place to be, since you won’t get away with that as a pre-roll on YouTube, most likely.
Campaigns using the new Glow unit have “delivered an average of almost 1.5 times the average time spent (ATS) of previous units, while campaigns using the full-featured Illuminate format delivered an average of twice the ATS,” the company said. Advertisers pay when a viewer has seen at least three seconds of the ad.
“I would argue the demand for good quality vehicles for ads outstrips the supply,” says Joe Gallagher, the veteran sales executive who is the new-ish general manager for Firefly. He says his platform brings together consumers with ads that are there to meet those consumers head on, without an incentive for the viewer beyond flat old, plain being interested.
“We offer fair value. That’s where we’re getting a lot of traction,” he says.
An advertiser doesn’t pay until and unless a consumer clicks on the ad. The exposure the advertiser gets on the screen ahead of time is all free. “It’s an enormous sales tool for us,” Gallagher says, adding that Firefly is about to embark on a study to determine how much of a brand lift that gives. But he believes he knows the answer: “It has tremendous value.”
He also points out that a lot of commercials have a hard time finding life. “It’s harder and harder, "Gallagher says. "Not everything can go to YouTube.”
Longer content—even just as unglamorously “long” as 30 seconds—won’t work as pre-roll which means in theory that advertisers have some difficulty finding good places for their network-sized commercials.
But he says, Firefly’s Glow and Illuminate give those ads a port in the storm. “If you can come up with a very simple pricing method--cost per engagement, where everybody knows what the threshold is-- it makes it very simple” to make a pitch, he says.
Gallagher is aware advertisers are still skeptical of what’s online metrics mean, and with a back handed compliment says that for as shaky as radio and TV ratings were not so many years ago, “whether you viewed it as flawed or not, everybody was working off the same benchmark.”
That’s harder to say about Internet numbers and ad rates, but he insists Firfly is in a good space. “You’re going to see value in the cost per engagement model when it is based on consumer interaction” like opting in to see an ad without any other inducement.
“Then,” says Gallagher, “you have an viewer who is there for no other reason than genuine interest in the advertiser. " And that's true. Even I could be lured in there, I'm sure.