AT&T’s media arm Xandr is kicking off its CES activity by unveiling pause ads, a unit it claims will help brands capture audience attention without unduly interrupting the viewer experience.
The beta rollout forms part of Xandr’s wider connected TV strategy, with the AT&T unit expecting to bundle pause ads with broader media packages ahead of the 2020 Upfronts.
Pause ads are activated when a viewer takes a break from content they are viewing and will offer advertisers the ability to show their wares using animated content similar to a GIF across the entirety of the screen.
Xandr is making the ad units available to media buyers in beta with inventory across AT&T, Epix and Starz, plus AT&T TV Now and select DirecTV households over the course of Q1.
Per Matthew Van Houten, vice president and head of product development at Xandr, the platform is working to improve audience targeting of pause ads in the first half of 2020, as well as offering media buyers third-party targeting of their performance.
“Step one was to develop a visually appealing ad unit outside of the clutter of those 16 minutes every hour that you see,” Van Houten added. “The goal now is for us to use more data and measurement to make it more engaging and impactful.”
He also told Adweek that his team is still exploring options as to the commercial packages it will offer as part of the pause ads rollout—currently, the ad units do not adhere to industry-standard 15- or 30-second pods. This includes ad rotation, and whether or not to charge on a CPM or sponsorship basis.
Xandr’s 2019 Relevance Report found that 73% of respondents dislike ads that disrupt their viewing experience and claim that pause ads will complement viewing activity. When asked about the value of an ad unit that activates when a viewer is disengaging from a screen, Van Houten said pause ads are effective because of their subtlety.
“People are absolutely doing other things but it’s a great, subtle reminder, especially when done well with interest and intender information that hopefully can drive that [advertiser-intended] action,” he said.
Compare this with the effectiveness of the third ad placement in a two-minute, 30-second ad pod which often gets lost in the ad clutter of orthodox inventory offerings, according to Van Houten. “There’s no real way to know whether those consumers are watching commercials for the duration of a pod without eyeball-tracking or some form of advanced detection, but we’ve operated for about 60 years [on that model],” he added.
Xandr’s Pause Ads rollout will take place over 2020 with the AT&T unit potentially offering them on all of its platforms including DIRECTV, OTT and mobile screens, and may potentially explore the option of licensing the capability to other media owners.
The Pause Ads rollout builds on Xandr’s CTV strategy, which was bolstered last year when it purchased Clypd from Europe’s largest broadcaster RTL to offer advertisers more ways to purchase inventory, with the AT&T unit hoping to build up a head of steam ahead of this year’s Upfronts.
“I would imagine we’ll be taking full national orders for this unit ahead of the Upfronts,” Van Houten told Adweek, explaining that it intended to then bundle Pause Ads in packages with other ad formats.