Networking technology provider Cisco's direct movements into the marketing tech space have been relatively deliberate. In recent weeks, Cisco has sharpened its focus on digital video ad delivery and analytics as highlighted by two deals it unveiled at CES.
The main focus right now, as part of an arrangement with interactive video ad-serving company Innovid, will be on creating the connective tissue between set-top box advertising and data collection and the idea of "second-screen" experiences for viewers using their mobile devices while watching linear TV. Separately, Cisco is working with Black Arrow, which is providing it with video-on-demand ad insertions for DVRs and other “advanced TV” systems.
"Two years after we rolled out our IP video platform, Videoscape, advertising has become a clearer component of that," said David Richardson, manager of the Strategy Group for Cisco's Service Provider Video Software and Solutions unit. "We don't deal directly with advertisers – we deal with service providers or content providers, like Comcast and DirecTV. It's important for us to develop contextual ads for the content providers."
Since Cisco doesn't deal in ad sales, it needs partners that do. That's where Innovid and Black Arrow come in. The goal of the Innovid partnership is to prove the value of Cisco's ability to create contextual advertising within an interactive framework. The reason is to draw in more lucrative brand campaigns, as opposed to offering up only direct response.
"We have the capabilities of extracting metadata from a live video feed," Richardson said. "We know from the video, the audio, the music, and we can add extra tags with relevant information can be used to drive second screen traffic. In a sense, it's contextual advertising meant to drive more viewers between the TV and online devices."
The two also want to prove that the second screen can be a meaningful vehicle for advertising. The idea of users watching TV and posting updates to Twitter and Facebook, or using social TV apps like Shazam, have been part of the discussion for the past three years. But for the most part, marketers and agency execs say that social TV apps don't have nearly enough scale yet among consumers to have a perceptible impact on brand advertising.
"Advertisers are very excited about the second-screen proposition, but the problem is that hasn't been scalable," Tal Chalozin, co-founder and CTO of Innovid, said. "Analytics were separate, so was delivery. There are so many different second screen apps, from Shazam to ZeeBox. This is the first time we can reach mass scale, by combining our tools with Cisco's service arrangements with the TV systems. And we don't have to create another app."