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Q&A: Wurl’s Ria Madrid Discusses BrandDiscovery's Groundbreaking Generative AI for CTV Ads

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Ria Madrid, Vice President, Advertising Partnerships at Wurl, discusses BrandDiscovery, their new tech that makes it possible for marketers to precisely match CTV ads with the emotion and context of what viewers are watching to create positive attention, using Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions. Partners like Media.Monks are already driving impressive results for their clients through Wurl's solution, which uses scene-level contextual targeting to help advertisers align the emotional sentiment of their campaign creatives with content closest to the ad break.

Tyler Nesler: What are the core features and benefits of Wurl’s BrandDiscovery, and how do these features push the envelope to create new engagement and conversions for TV advertisers?

Ria Madrid: BrandDiscovery analyzes the content leading up to an ad break so that advertisers have the ability to target contextually-relevant moments that best resonate with the viewer – precision like they’ve never had before in a live streaming environment.

There are two distinct benefits to how BrandDiscovery’s targeting works: 1) it processes in real time and 2) it happens at the scene level. Both of these advantages give advertisers precise control to better align their ads with content, leading to positive viewer attention and stronger performance.

Another unique feature of BrandDiscovery is the ability to target based on emotions. Research has shown ads that emotionally align with the surrounding content can generate 2-3 times better performance. Ultimately, this approach is creating a more advantageous advertising ecosystem for all parties – viewers get more personalized ad experiences, advertisers achieve greater ROAS, and publishers amplify their monetization potential.

TN: What are the current key issues with CTV ad supply concerning contextual targeting, and how does Wurl’s BrandDiscovery work to mitigate these issues?

RM: Today’s publishers and SSPs (supply-side platforms) are operating in an overcrowded and competitive market. While ad spend has steadily moved over to CTV – spurred by the shift from traditional TV viewing to streaming – dollars aren’t pouring in as much as anticipated.

Advertisers face real concerns around transparency and control when it comes to CTV advertising. For one, current approaches to contextual targeting on CTV have fallen short: broad genre-based targeting is inconsistent and can overlook episodic nuances, leading to brand suitability concerns. Think of a typical show that has both tear-jerking and laugh-out-loud moments – an overly upbeat, happy ad appearing right after a tragic scene would be a complete mismatch, leading to a jarring experience for the viewer that ultimately results in negative brand attention.

These are issues BrandDiscovery is working to mitigate through scene-level emotion-based targeting. For advertisers, BrandDiscovery’s ability to help them more accurately align ads to emotionally-resonant content means better chances that those ads appear in brand-suitable environments and drive positive viewer attention. For publishers and SSPs, the ability to provide more effective targeting strategies and contextually-relevant ads serve as a key differentiator in a crowded space.

TN: One of the primary features of Wurl’s BrandDiscovery is Content Alignment, which contextually and emotionally aligns ads with their surrounding content via Generative AI to create positive attention, using Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions. Could you discuss how BrandDiscovery’s large language model (LLM) uses Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions? Was the model primarily trained on the Wheel’s specific classification approach for general emotional responses?

RM: BrandDiscovery uses Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions to score and classify content. Plutchik’s model includes eight primary emotions at three different intensity levels: high, medium, and low. The concatenation of these emotions and intensities provides a full spectrum of possible human emotional states.

The emotion of the content is rated on a scale of 1 to 10 and weighted according to Wurl’s algorithm. Once BrandDiscovery’s model determines the “emotional score” for a scene, it is then matched to an ad with a similar emotional score.

TN: Wurl’s partner Media.Monks used BrandDiscovery to target CTV inventory that matched the emotional tone of their ads, which was an approach that out-performed their other campaign strategies. Could you discuss how Wurl’s Content Alignment helped the Media.Monks campaign to excel compared to industry benchmarks?

RM: Media.Monks had a financial services client looking to expand their audience, improve brand awareness, and boost purchase intent. While the team initially had an ideal customer profile in mind, they were open to testing innovative strategies that could drive even better performance for their client, which is where BrandDiscovery came in.

With BrandDiscovery, Media.Monks leveraged emotion-based targeting to run CTV ads across Wurl’s premium content publishers. By targeting inventory that matched the emotional tone of their client’s ads, Media.Monks drove increased brand awareness and purchase intent, while also cutting their client’s cost per engagement in half. Ultimately, the client saw a 7x increase in aided brand awareness, 4x increase in brand favorability, and 2x lift in purchase intent compared to 5-year industry benchmarks for Lending brand impact studies.

TN: BrandDiscovery worked with the independent measurement partners EDO and Kantar to provide Media.Monks with full visibility into their campaign performance. What were some of the core methodologies for these studies and what were the positive findings that confirmed the positive performance of the Media.Monks campaign?

RM: The core methodology for the Media.Monks campaign involved applying emotion-based targeting in order to enhance viewer engagement. By matching their client’s ads to the content directly preceding it, Media.Monks was able to achieve emotional resonance that made the ad break feel more like a natural continuation of the program rather than an annoying disruption.

Wurl worked with both EDO and Kantar to provide third-party measurement and validation of BrandDiscovery’s results for the Media.Monks campaign. This gave Media.Monks and their client full visibility into campaign performance. Kantar’s study revealed that, when compared to a control group, emotion-based targeting combined with genre-based targeting significantly boosted brand awareness by 33% and improved brand favorability by 28%. Meanwhile, EDO’s analysis, which was conducted across 12 million delivered impressions, showed that ads that matched the emotion of video segments were 200% more effective at driving keyword searches and site visitations.

TN: Ultimately, how do you think GenAI might fundamentally transform the approach to CTV advertising, and how might this also change the audience experience regarding improved engagement and campaign performance?

RM: GenAI is introducing new ways to analyze, categorize, and target across streaming TV – at scale. In a world where the market is only growing more crowded and complex, the ability to leverage innovative tools made possible by GenAI can serve as a key value driver for today’s publishers looking to attract more advertisers to the medium all while maintaining a quality viewer experience.

At the end of the day, for advertisers to make the leap and invest more in CTV, they need to feel confident that it can truly drive value for their brand. With GenAI-based emotion targeting, we’re excited about being a part of this shift. Proving CTV advertising to be a highly targetable, measurable, and performance-based channel will be a game changer with the introduction of GenAI.

Ria Madrid is Vice President, Advertising Partnerships at Wurl, a leader in the Connected TV industry. In her role, Ria is responsible for company strategy and growth across Wurl’s ad revenue business, overseeing business development, client success, and programmatic activation across both publisher and strategic advertiser partnerships. Prior to joining Wurl, Ria served on Xumo’s original executive team as Vice President of Media Strategy and Operations. There, her role focused largely on cultivating and optimizing ad partnerships across the streaming platform’s expansive portfolio of content companies and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Ria was responsible for the strategy and execution of various revenue initiatives leading up to a highly celebrated Comcast acquisition in 2020. A true California native, Ria loves being active outdoors and soaking up the sun. When she’s not chasing after her two boys, she enjoys pilates, hiking, patio dining, and spending time at the beach.

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