Roku tees up Microsoft partnership, new shoppable TV ad experiences

Roku on Tuesday aimed to put TV streaming front and center for media planners and buyers, showcasing advertising solutions at NewFronts that include a new program for shoppable ads, dynamic linear ad insertion, and a collaboration with Microsoft.

Marking the 60th anniversary of the Upfront season, the time is right for a focus on streaming TV, according to Kristina Shepard, head of agency partnerships and national brand team lead at Roku.

“In the past year we’ve seen that marketers’ investment in TV streaming has greatly accelerated,” Shepard said in an interview with Fierce Video ahead of Tuesday’s NewFronts presentation.

Pointing to Nielsen data, she noted that for the first time streaming TV has surpassed linear in weekly reach for adults ages 18-49.

“Our goal this year is to take the reins together with those brand and agency partners and accomplish our collective goals of making this year the year for a better TV ad experience,” Shepard said, adding that it wants to ensure the streaming ecosystem gets its fair share of upfront ad spend based on consumption.

Roku’s integrated ad platform OneView is one element that underpins the aim of a better TV ad experiences.  Advertisers can buy streaming Upfronts directly from partners as usual, but can now activate them in OneView.

“OneView ensures that your ads across all of these publishers talk to one another, that they don’t collide, and that they don’t create a poor experience for your consumer,” said Julian Mintz, Roku national brand team lead, during the presentation. OneView identifies opportunities to maximize reach, optimizes towards ideal frequency and reduces wastes, he added, creating a better experience for streamers and brands.  

Brands like Lexus, TurboTax, Progressive and DraftKings are among those already using OneView.

On stage the company shared updates to the platform including new shoppable TV ad experiences and a program for retailers to pair shoppable ads with Roku Pay to make it easier to sell products from ads on TV screens.  

The updated experiences include an overlay to an existing ad so that streamers can use their remote to click "ok" alongside the ad, with panel placement either to the far left or bottom of the screen where Roku says viewers are most likely to pay attention. A message is then sent to the number they have on file with Roku and a link to the company’s site to continue shopping. Roku said their upfront advertisers will be the first to try the new ad experiences.

“We’ve learned a ton about how to make shopping natural on the largest screen in the home,” Shepard said on stage. “For example, we found that streamers are 5-times more likely to click their remotes than scan a QR code. Phones distract us from TV, remotes bring us in.”

Roku’s larger vision for shopping TV involves the Roku Studio, where products show up in a Roku original series and viewers can shop for them from their TV with one click. Viewers would be able complete the purchase on TV without entering credit card or shipping information, through the retailer program that pairs shoppable ads with Roku Pay.  More details on that are expected later this year.

Also on stage, Roku VP of ad marketing Dan Robins disclosed a new partnership with Microsoft aimed at showing how TV ads affect online search. Roku data found that half of the platform’s users said they use search after seeing an ad on the platform. However, marketers can’t tell the impact it’s had – something Roku is looking to change with Microsoft.

“For the first time you’ll see how TV ads both linear and streaming influence search and online browsing behaviors,” Robins said. “To do this we’re directly matching data from America’s number one streaming platform with Microsoft audience intelligence.”

Roku also highlighted recent ad tech announcements around dynamic linear ad insertion, expanded measurement with Marketing Mix Modeling, a Roku advertising watermark to authenticate, and a newly launched advertising clean room.

“Only Roku has the direct consumer relationships and ad tech stack built for streaming to take partnerships farther,” Robins said.

2021 saw about 30% of upfront revenues hit streaming devices, according to Shepard.

“We saw that as a major year for brands to right size [their investment in streaming TV] and we only expect that number to grow,” she told Fierce.