In early 2023, a startup called Telly boldly declared its intention to revolutionize the television industry. Many took notice because the founder and CEO is Ilya Pozin, the former CEO of the wildly successful Pluto TV streaming platform. Even more stand-out was the novel approach to selling televisions: giving them away at no charge.
The basic premise is to sell ad space on the TV that subsidizes the cost of the panel itself. It’s too early to tell if Telly’s business will indeed be the “next big thing” as it claims to be, but it does represent a possible coming shift in the world of programmatic OTT/CTV advertising, and maybe not in the way that you’d think. Let’s take a look:
How Does It Work?
Interested users sign up and volunteer a lot of information – including income, household demographics, and entertainment preferences – that Telly uses to create an advertising profile.
The hardware that Telly is handing out is its own design: a 55-inch 4K flat panel with what looks like an ultra-wide monitor bolted onto the bottom. This second “smart screen” can show a variety of ancillary information like sports scores and weather updates, but its primary purpose is to show ads in a dedicated portion of the screen.
Snuggled between the screens is an integrated sound bar system and a camera. Telly advertises the camera for use in video calls, but it is also there to track who is watching what and when. Tracking will be important because that ad space – sold programmatically and through direct deals – runs constantly, whether the TV is on or not.
The overall play is making enough revenue to cover the cost of manufacturing and shipping the TVs. Even if Telly’s shot at shaking up the industry doesn’t pan out, there are plenty of interesting firsts that advertisers would do well to note.
Why Advertisers Should Pay Attention
More Ads in the Home than Ever Before
For starters, this might be the earliest example of digital IN-HOME advertising, since that second screen plays display ads on a 24/7 basis. This would be an utterly gigantic increase in programmatic inventory for advertisers to take advantage of, especially if their DSP is up to snuff. Genius Monkey users, for example, wouldn’t have to do anything extra to get that space, as the platform is built with a device-agnostic approach to programmatic buying.
CTV/OTT is on the Verge of a Huge Boost
CTV/OTT has traditionally made up a smaller portion of the marketing pie, representing roughly 4-6% of the overall programmatic spending over the last few years. Nevertheless, it has been growing year over year, and has the largest room to grow over any other programmatic channel.
Certain verticals running CTV/OTT campaigns on the Genius Monkey platform saw as much as 24.8% decrease in CPMs in 2023 vs 2022. A new abundance of CTV inventory will help drive that down even more, further increasing competition in the medium. CTV is due for a big break, and the widespread adoption of Telly or something like it would prompt an explosion of interest in the medium.
New Devices are Getting into Consumer Homes
With consumers accepting a digital billboard into their home, it might not be too long before they are ready for two, three, or more. It wasn’t that long ago that the general public was very nervous about companies “listening in” through cell phones and A.I. assistants, but now devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home are becoming more and more commonplace.
Consumers seem to be more accepting of devices that can track impressions as long as there’s a good incentive, often in convenience or – just maybe – a free television. Impression tracking in the OTT space has long been a tricky proposition, with only select leaders in the industry really sporting the features and data needed for nuanced reporting. Getting a camera in the living room would make CTV/OTT far easier to track, further contributing to an industry-wide uptick in OTT ads.
Telly is Asking for Lots of Info, and People are Giving It
A lot of moving parts go into creating that little square of ad space in the living room. As mentioned above, interested viewers offer a fair amount of personal data as part of the sign-up process, enabling Telly to create an advertising profile for individuals and their households. It doesn’t stop at displaying target ads; Telly has recently announced voice command integration with ChatGPT, as well as E-commerce capabilities allowing viewers to quickly buy from their couches.
All of this is supported by a partnership with Attain, a data-purchasing company that assists marketers by providing customer information. You can bet that every transaction, click, and voluntarily-given scrap of personal information will be readily accessible to anyone who wants to advertise with Telly.
Even if they don’t realize it, consumers opening their home to Telly are giving up a lot more than a small space for advertisements. Those TV’s aren’t paid for by ads: they’re paid for with a mountain of consumer data.
How is It Catching On?
Telly started with a promise to ship half a million units by the end of 2023. They didn’t reach that goal, but the company is quick to assure it wasn’t because of a lack of interest. Citing “thousands” of shipped TV’s with “hundreds of thousands” in the waiting list, Telly is standing by their story that they have the next big thing.
Quite a few advertisers are convinced of the potential, with many pledging resources and support for the ecosystem. Kia went so far as to run a case study with Telly, reporting an average 60% better ad recall. That report came as part of Telly’s most recent press release in January of 2024, along with the CEO appearing in a podcast to share some more details.
While a large company like Kia isn’t going to run a case study at the drop of a hat, it’s apparent that Telly has attracted the attention of the industry and not the general public quite yet. Right now, it’s too early to tell if the positivity is pure corporate speak or if there’s genuine interest. Nevertheless, those Telly TV’s are out there and it’s working well enough to keep them in business. Whether it’s a runaway success, a total flop, or a business model ahead of its time, Telly hints at an interesting future advertisers will want to keep their eyes on.
Make Sure You’re Ready for the Next Big Thing!
It might be Telly or it might be something else; a single breakthrough device or business model can completely change the landscape of OTT advertising. The best way to prepare for the unforeseeable is to have a great programmatic platform on your side!
Genius Monkey has been at the forefront of CTV/OTT tracking and reporting since it first arrived on the scene because of our device-agnostic approach to behavioral targeting. Learn more, find more customers, reduce your costs, and prepare for the future by getting in touch with Genius Monkey today!