Vizio brings interactive ads to WatchFree+ via Brightline partnership

Vizio is dialing up interactivity for ads that air on the smart TV maker’s free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service WatchFree+ though a partnership with Brightline.

It marks the first smart TV integration for Brightline and its OTT Accelerator product, which is already used to power interactive, dynamic and shoppable ads on Hulu, Peacock and Discovery+, among others.

According to Vizio, the partnership also makes it the first smart TV OEM to offer advertisers the ability to enhance their commercials with interactive features.

Interactive ad breaks will be rolling out across hundreds of linear channels on the WatchFree+ service, which is available for free on Vizio smart TVs via the home screen.

The aim is to deliver a more engaging and entertaining experience for millions of Vizio smart TV users during ad breaks, and in turn better results for advertising partners, explained Adam Bergman, group VP of Advertising & Data Sales at Vizio.

“Brightline data shows that more than 20% of homes exposed to interactive ads engage. Data also shows interactive ads also drive greater lifts in brand metrics than a traditional, passive 30-second spot,” Bergman told Fierce Video via email. “This means more value for viewers and more meaningful engagements for advertisers.”

It also allows Vizio to deliver more “attention and engagement-based” metrics and reporting to its advertising partners, he said.

Through new ad formats via the Brightline partnership, opted-in Vizio users will be able to interact with brands and ads via their Vizio remote. One example would be an ad that displays trivia questions and prompts the viewers to click for the right answer. Other interactive elements are more product-focused, with the ability for viewers to customize such as pick the background and/or color of a product by scrolling through different choices, or shopping the catalogue through an interactive brochure.

Other players in the streaming space are also experimenting with interactive ad experiences, including NBCUniversal and its Peacock streaming service, as well as  Roku, which teamed up with Walmart for a shoppable ad pilot program.

Bergman confirmed that the interactive ad units won’t increase the current ad load on Vizio’s WatchFree+, but enhance existing 30-second spots. He noted Vizio will monitor how customers respond and create the right mix of interactive vs. traditional spots per break based on feedback.

While interactive ads are becoming part of the picture for Vizio, they’re not yet ready to completely replace traditional commercial spots.

“Interactive ads will play an important role in the future, but there are still some creative hurdles and viewer conditioning to get to that point,” Bergman said in regards to interactive ads supplanting 30-second ads.

Additionally, advertisers that are already using Accelerator Ads, created by Brightline, can extend those existing units onto WatchFree+.  Vizio said the inventory will be available through direct deals with its Vizio Ads unit and can be access through managed service and programmatic channels.

Over $100 million will be spent running Brightline’s Accelerator ad formats in 2022, according to Vizio.

“FAST viewing is going to play an integral role in the future of the TV ecosystem, and this integration is going to optimize the experience for brands and millions of consumers that start their journey with Vizio,” said Travis Hockersmith, Group Vice President, Platform+ at Vizio, in a statement.. “This partnership brings engagement and interactivity to the biggest screen in the house on WatchFree+.”

And interactive ads on CTV screens appear to do a better job at driving engagement and completion rates than advanced video ad campaigns seen on mobile or PC platforms, according to September analysis from Innovid.

Mike Bologna, chief accelerator at BrightLine, meanwhile, said the Vizio partnership marks the next phase of expansions for the company’s Accelerator Ads “as FAST Channel viewing from smart TV manufacturers has burst onto the scene and seen unprecedented adoption.”

“Vizio has been a pioneer from day one with their unique targeting capabilities, which make a powerful combination now with engaging ad formats that deliver and measure attention,” Bologna continued.

In terms of Vizio’s ability to target audiences, the smart TV OEM already benefits from owning the TV interface and data gleaned from automatic content recognition (ACR) tech to know what ads and programming are playing on TV screens across streaming and linear. Further boosting ACR and measurement, Vizio’s Inscape just this month released a panel (called the National Representative Panel) reflective of the national U.S. population that pulls in viewership from over 21 million opted-in Vizio smart TVs.

And when it comes to advertising Vizio marked progress for WatchFree+ this year, nabbing $200 million in Upfront commitments during the 2022 season inclusive of its FAST service. In working to create a better ad experience for viewers and advertisers Vizio’s struck other recent partnerships, including in October when it tapped Magnite’s SpringServe technology to customize and enhance visibility of ads on its SmartCast platform.