Roku Debuts New Tool to Capture More Linear Ad Dollars Just in Time for Upfronts

Activation Insights shows how much marketers could shift budgets to OTT

Roku wants advertisers to shift more of their upfront budgets from linear to OTT. - Credit by Roku
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Roku, looking to capitalize on the continued swell of advertiser interest in streaming, is giving marketers another tool to measure ad campaigns’ reach and effectiveness across its OTT offerings.

The streaming platform is rolling out new tools to let advertisers review their linear TV campaign performances and model the possible streaming audiences they can reach if they shift advertising budgets to Roku. The tools, called Activation Insights, model what happens to a campaign’s reach and effectiveness if advertisers reallocate different percentages of their budgets to OTT, and they provide advertisers with an “optimal budget spend” estimate to recommend the dollar amount that advertisers should shift to Roku’s OTT platform.

Alison Levin, Roku’s head of global ad sales and strategy, said the goal is to show advertisers how OTT can benefit them and their media campaigns.

“When we meet with clients, one of the largest questions that always comes up for us—and one of the larger reasons the shift [to OTT] hasn’t happened quicker—is because brands haven’t been able to understand or haven’t had the data to know how much of their budget they should move from linear to OTT,” Levin said. “We’ve been completely focused on helping to solve this industry question.”

Rolling out Activation Insights just a week after upfronts week presentations is a strategic move for Roku, which (according to company filings) makes more money from advertising and content subscriptions than it does from selling its connected TV devices. Levin said she wants advertisers to use the new tools to determine how much money to move over to OTT as they begin committing large swaths of their advertising budgets to new and returning television programming.

Some brand partners, whom she declined to disclose, are already using Activation Insights in beta, Levin said. The tool will roll out to the wider advertising community in the coming days.

“We’re committed to getting it in the hands of our buyers as they start to allocate budgets for the upfronts,” Levin said.

Roku is able to measure advertisers’ linear TV campaign performance through its network of more than 10 million smart TVs that use Roku’s operating system and share information about all of the content it displays back to Roku using automatic content recognition, or ACR. Roku groups ACR data with the registration data it already has on file about the person who bought and set up the devices, which serves as the foundation for building out ad targeting opportunities.

The company has previously sought to show off how brands can reach different consumers on OTT using its Reach Insights tool, which measures campaign effectiveness and reach after the completion of an advertising campaign. Baskin Robbins, one of the brands advertising on Roku’s platform, found than 85% of viewers aged 18-49 who saw a Baskin Robbins ad on Roku didn’t see it on linear TV; the company overall saw a 10.6 percent incremental reach by advertising on Roku, the company said.

Roku, which went public in 2017, is optimistic about the future of streaming, which is shaping up to become an ultra-competitive space as media companies left and right debut new subscription and ad-supported OTT services amid a continued creeping decline in traditional TV viewership. Levin said the new streaming services touted during upfronts week give Roku a “huge opportunity” while giving advertisers more ways to apply digital ad targeting tactics to TV.

“We’ve been saying this all along that all television will be streamed,” said Levin, who joined Roku in 2015. “Maybe people might have thought we were crazy when we launched 10+ years ago, but now you see every single television network is mentioning some sort of OTT service. So this validates what we’ve been saying for quite some time.”

@kelseymsutton Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.