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2 September 2021

Extreme Reach calms interactive ad gold rush with BrightLine

As new fads take off in ad tech, there is always a stampede of advertisers and brands rushing to get stuck in on an ad format that does not yet have sufficient infrastructure to meet demand. Faultline has observed time and time again that this is painfully true of connected TV, but an even more contemporary example is interactive ads.

One company that is trying to fix that with a new partnership is Extreme Reach. The New York-based advertising platform has just entered a partnership with interactive ad specialist Brightline.

Speaking to the company’s CMO, Melinda McLaughlin, this week, we heard that marketers are flocking to CTV and interactive ads without having done the necessary leg work beforehand. “We race to do all these new things, but then everyone realises we have to make the workflow work. There is always a lot happening behind the scenes,” McLaughlin told us.

So, enter Brightline, which is now offering Extreme Reach’s customers the ability to offload their assets from Extreme Reach’s central asset hub and onto its platform to create interactive ad creative.

BrightLine works for large CTV publishers such as Hulu and Roku, converting advertisers onto the interactive ad format so that publishers can sell their inventory for a higher price. Extreme Reach wanted to partner with an interactive ad specialist with strong publisher and sell-side ties, and Brightline seemed the perfect match.

While BrightLine works for publishers to create and promote interactive ads, Extreme Reach evangelizes those services to its advertisers, while also using its existing networks to deliver the necessary creative assets for interactive ads.

This makes it much easier for Extreme Reach’s brand and agency customers to make spur of the moment decisions about implementing interactive ads, as all the necessary infrastructure including assets, creative studios, and publishers willing to sell inventory are already in place.

McLaughlin says this streamlined, cloud-based process is a world away from the current slog of “people in the trenches finding assets and sending FTP files” that the industry has been running on until now.

Extreme Reach is in the business of what McLaughlin described as omnichannel activation for ads. This includes organizing the delivery of creative assets across all ad formats, talent and rights management, and even providing a CDN-esque service for non-advertising content. “We sit at the center of the entire media and entertainment ecosystem,” McLaughlin observed.

In short, it can provide the connection paths for any brand that wants to activate creative across any ad format. Brands, or their agencies, upload creative assets to Extreme Reach’s AdBridge platform where they are reformatted and distributed according to media plans. These pathways mean that Extreme Reach can provide analytics on campaign performance.

As for this CDN-esque service, Extreme Reach has found a side hustle moving non-advertising content around the media ecosystem on its pre-existing network. This distribution service uses the same network as AdBridge but serves use cases such as scaling up local news packages to national networks.

Extreme Reach stretches far beyond video, with print, digital, out of home and radio all accounted for on the platform. Naturally, Faultline is focused on the video side of things, which McLaughlin said is by far the most complex ad format to serve. “Print and outdoor are easy, but video ad serving and linear TV is how the sausage gets made,” she told us.

McLaughlin made the point that Extreme Reach’s vast scope made it an unbiased commentator on the value of various advertising formats. While the business model varies wildly depending on the service, put broadly, Extreme Reach still gets paid regardless of what ad formats brands and advertisers flock to. “We have no stake in that, we just need to help marketers switch their campaigns on the fly,” McLaughlin explained.

With that in mind, we thought it best to get an impartial opinion on the hype surrounding CTV inventory – are advertisers actually flocking towards it like moths to a flame?

From where McLaughlin’s standing, the answer is yes. She told us that in any given quarter in recent times, at least 50% of the impressions fielded on Extreme Reach’s platform are going to CTV. “It’s the darling of the industry now, advertisers are pushing more and more impressions,” she told us.

The antiquated and uncalibrated nature of the digital video ad tech ecosystem can make a ‘one stop shop’ offering like Extreme Reach’s attractive for CTV advertisers, who are often rushing to cash in on the technology without having the necessary infrastructure in place. “There is always a race to where the eyeballs are going before the industry is even properly set up yet,” McLaughlin observed.

Much like Faultline, McLaughlin says that she has consistently heard concerns from advertisers about the lack of frequency capping on a lot of CTV buys. Compared to linear, there tend to be far less ads per pod on a CTV, and yet there is still no standardized way to ensure that viewers are not shown the same repeating ad again and again.

She argues this can often create a disconnect between the value the agencies are supposedly paying for with CTV ads, and the value of the resultant consumer experience.

This year has been a busy one for Extreme Reach. It found its European soulmate in London-based ad platform Adstream, acquiring the company in June of this year.

McLaughlin explained that much of the stimulus for the acquisition was a desire to expand out of North America. Regularly in our discussion, she noted that while Extreme Reach is comfortable putting together the plumbing for the North American ad tech ecosystem, it was still figuring out how best to operate in Europe.

McLaughlin says Adstream has been a leader of asset movement in the cloud, while Extreme Reach has the edge when it comes to digital ad serving of video, as well as talent management and rights control. Adstream was without both capabilities prior to the acquisition.

The uniting characteristic is that both companies offer a content delivery suite for advertisers. Extreme Reach already has the full North American market supply chain down, and is hoping that Adstream will expand this to the rest of the world. Once Extreme Reach rolls out its video ad serving globally, it will be connected to nearly every screen around the globe.

The long-term goal is to merge the two platforms into one under the Adstream brand, with Extreme Reach overseeing the product.

Much like all the best ad tech vendors that Faultline speaks to, Extreme Reach is trying to join dots and plug gaps in the ecosystem using pre-existing technologies. Simple methods are often the most effective.