AI Digital, KERV pair AI-powered interactive ads with programmatic buying

Two AI-focused players have teamed to deliver “360-automation” for interactive ad creative and ad buying, with the aim of driving attention, collapsing the marketing funnel and ultimately enabling advertisers to do more with less on connected TV.

AI Digital, a programmatic consultancy using an AI-optimized approach, and KERV Interactive, whose AI tech powered shoppable TV experiences for NBCUniversal and others, came together in a new partnership in September to marry respective AI tech capabilities and inject automated interactive ad units within programmatic environments.

Programmatic ad buying and interactive ads on their own aren’t new. However, executing interactive ads programmatically has never been done at scale, AI Digital President Matt Bayer told StreamTV Insider.

“We believe you should be able to trade this, innovative units, programmatically, and we’re on a mission to get there,” Bayer said.

And while the concept of interactive video isn’t novel, taking an automated approach to both the creative build and buying, and creating more touchpoints via AI, is, they said.

AI Digital and Kerv see each other delivering the best of both worlds, bringing unique ad formats to streaming within a modern, biddable, marketplace.

For AI Digital clients, they’ll be able to introduce a new level of interactivity and performance. And Kerv sees the opportunity to leverage its partner’s trading and buying prowess as it aims to scale the tech and create “attention or interactive currency” in the market, Kerv CRO Jay Wolff told StreamTV Insider.

Since starting the partnership, which applies to online video (OLV) and CTV, Bayer said AI Digital has “seen significant progress and received positive feedback” from clients that have tested its integrated suite of solutions.

“It’s an exciting time for us and our clients to see the potential in bringing target audiences deeper and more engaging consumer experiences that can drive greater value & ultimately better business outcomes,” he commented.  

Allowing marketers to do more with less

Video has long been an upper-funnel channel to help drive brand awareness, where building rich media campaigns is labor-intensive, requiring a lot of work and approval processes.

But Kerv aims to take out the legwork. When you “KERV” a video, as the company likes to say, it automates the process of building interactive creatives by adding a layer of AI and machine learning on top of static video assets – collapsing the funnel without extra effort.

Kerv’s tech, which auto detects objects within content, also underpins new shoppable ads on NBCU’s Peacock that let viewers shop looks from select episodes of Bravo’s Below Deck in partnership with Walmart. AI Digital leverages the same Kerv tech but instead of shoppable TV, its use case is about interactivity, attention to ads and better performance for marketers (although it can include commerce elements if brands desire).

By applying Kerv’s tech to add interactivity into static pre-rolls automatically it speeds up the localizing of video and allows brands to do more with less. Marketers get more bang for their proverbial buck as AI enables multiple variations of one creative to tailor messages, which also helps with ad-targeting.

“You don’t have to create 90 different creatives for different markets,” Wolff explained.

Kerv can take one creative and dynamically change the QR code or background image or tile on the actual video itself to reflect where the ad is being shown, where AI Digital is doing the automated buying. For example, it can use one creative to create different video assets based on various locations of a quick-service restaurant (QSR). Or for that same restaurant it can automatically switch the QR code or background image based on the time of day to align with breakfast, lunch or dinner. Changes can also be made to serve dynamic ads based on age or gender.

“Dynamic triggers, dynamic personalization within video has always been a very rigorous and labor-intensive process that is now completely eradicated through automation,” Wolff noted. Essentially, static video ads or content become “experiential ads” through AI.

It’s a benefit for AI Digital which can also take the turnkey solution to not only national advertisers but smaller markets or tier-twos to create more ease across their buying and campaigns, Bayer noted.

Solving the attention gap

As advertisers vie for eyeballs, attention is a valuable – yet somewhat elusive – metric that brands are all ultimately competing for. Enter interactive ad formats which can ensure a viewer’s engaged, while also providing the opportunity to move them down the marketing funnel.

The partnership leans on AI to accelerate advertiser outcomes and solve what Wolff described as the “active attention gap.”

AI tech is used to address marketers’ question of “how do I get my video to perform better, to drive leads, lower funnel metrics, higher click-through rates, more engagement.”

Kerv sees itself positioned to help AI Digital increase engagement with clients and advance conversions off ads they buy.

“We want to be that measurement stick, that currency for active attention” and help drive outcomes, whether that’s commerce or leads, Wolff said. “We think video has a role in the performance game.”

Separate data from BrightLine has shown an appetite for interactive ad formats among consumers, with 75% stating a preference for interactive TV ads over watching a standard commercial. Meanwhile 85% of viewers agreed they “prefer ads that feel personalized or localized.”

And AI-powered interactivity from Kerv can make video actionable and measurable, meaning many more data points for AI Digital “to play with and to optimize against.”

While brands are interested in streaming Bayer thinks the market expectation “was always bigger” than what’s being delivered right now in CTV, as a new channel means ad formats take time to innovate. However, he believes the Kerv partnership helps propel the promise of CTV – meaning a better consumer experience alongside better advertiser results – by innovating the ad product through automation.

Kerv is already driving results. For example, generalized stats from the technology show a global cruise company saw a 4.1% bump in brand lift, and 6.2% increase in ad recall in audiences that interacted with Kerv creative. A luxury auto company saw a 98% video completion rate (exceeding the benchmark by +3.25%) and the custom end frame QR creative generated an additional 23,000 minutes of earned time spent. And a fashion brand generated click-through-rates upwards 3%, while a national hotel chain lowered its estimated cost per acquisition by 3x.

“The more consumer attention we could drive and share of attention in the marketplace, we're going to drive more share of sales in [marketers’] respective categories,” Bayer said.

Updated language in second to last paragraph to reflect results are generalized stats from the technology. An earlier version said beta test results under the partnership.