Ad-tech firm TripleLift has hired a top Fox sales exec to shake up the $70 billion-TV advertising industry as media giants prepare new streaming services


Michael Shields, TripleLift

  • Ad-tech firm TripleLift is building new ad products for forthcoming streaming services from companies like WarnerMedia, Disney, and Quibi.
  • To spearhead the new business, the company has hired Michael Shields from Fox Networks Group. Shields helped Fox launch TV formats like six-second ads and ad breaks that cut down on commercial time in programs.
  • TripleLift plans to automate the labor-intensive process of inserting products in TV shows, but it faces challenges in getting companies on board.
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Advertisers are capitalizing on the direct-to-consumer streaming services boom.

As big media companies like WarnerMedia, Disney, and the Jeffrey Katzenberg-backed Quibi prepare streaming services to compete with Netflix and Hulu, ad-tech firm TripleLift is building new ad formats specifically for connected TVs.

TripleLift has hired Fox Networks Group and Viacom vet Michael Shields as general manager of advanced advertising. At Fox Networks Group, Shields was part of former ad chief Joe Marchese’s team that was tasked with building and testing new ad formats, including six-second ads and TV ad breaks that slash commercial time.

Read more: The TV industry talks a big game about reinventing how advertising works but struggles to change the way business has been done for years

TripleLift’s co-founder and chief strategy officer Ari Lewine said that Shields’ team will build ad products similar to the ones he sold at Fox Networks Group. Subscription-based platforms like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu have trained consumers to watch content without advertising, and TripleLift’s bet is that as more direct-to-consumer streaming services roll out, media companies will demand more ad formats that don’t annoy consumers. 

“Ads have been largely stagnant in linear TV for several decades,” Lewine said. “To go to a company as large as Disney, Fox Networks, and Viacom and introduce meaningful change to the core products they sell, meaning TV ads, is not easy — these are large corporations.”

TripleLift has long helped advertisers create and buy so-called native ads on publishers’ websites and apps programmatically so they don’t have to buy them directly from publishers, which often involves labor-intensive processes. Lewine said that the same technology can be applied to advertising in streaming apps.

TripleLift wants to help advertisers crank out product placements

TripleLift is working on an ad format to make product placements pop up in a TV program in real-time. For example, it could identify a break in a sports game like a player change or a timeout to plug in an ad on a billboard in the background. Or, it could trigger advertising pods during programs that feature length ads other than standard 15-second and 30-second TV commercials.

Product placements in TV shows and movies have been around for decades. More recently, Netflix, HBO, and Amazon have beefed up their work to insert product placements in shows like “Stranger Things” and “Game of Thrones.”

Such deals require multiple parties like production companies, creators, networks, distribution platforms, and advertisers to work together. In addition to getting multiple companies on board, TripleLift will also have to convince media buyers and sellers that product placements can easily be slipped into content.

Lewine said that Shields’ network background will help talk to all the stakeholders involved. TripleLift often hires talent from media companies when it’s expanded into new areas, as it did when it hired Jason Kleinman from Hearst to move into branded content.

“Hollywood has developed a certain sanctity around what a finished video looks like,” Shields said. “We are busy in conversations with a variety of production companies and branded entertainment providers to show them how the technology works. Getting their buy-in is crucial, and that’s where we’ve started.”

Jay Friedman, president of Goodway Group, said advertisers would welcome ad formats designed just for OTT.

“There was a time where it was difficult to get advertisers and their agencies to cut anything but 30-second or 15-second ad, but the six-second has gained enough popularity that advertisers are not only accepting but leaning in,” he said.

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