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mDialog Enables Interactive Ad Overlays for iPad and iPhone

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As the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch platforms grow, multiple vendors are expanding their product offerings to allow video content publishers further avenues for monetization, as well as expanded services. For example, on April 13, Canada's mDialog announced an extension to the mDialog Video as a Service (VaaS) platform that enables interactive ad-overlays for Apple mobile devices for both live and VOD adaptive streaming, all distributed via the Akamai content delivery network. I spoke with president Greg Philpott about the announcement in an ooVoo interview that you can see at the end of this article, though the video quality during some segments isn't great. While the video is longish (about 20 minutes), if you hover your cursor over the video playback bar, you'll see tags that let you click directly to different sections.

Streaming an overlay ad to the iPad via mDialog's Video as a Service platform

As an overview, mDialog targets content owners seeking to deliver advertising-supported content to mobile viewers, today solely to the "Apple mobile ecosystem" with announcements regarding other platforms coming "real soon," according to Philpott. The ideal customer would be a content owner currently distributing to desktop computers via Flash or Silverlight who wants to expand service to the mobile market. In a typical arrangement, mDialog hosts the advertisements, converting them into up to 7 different configurations for adaptive delivery via partner Akamai. mDialog can insert overlay or pre-, post-, or mid-roll advertisements in either on-demand or live content, partnering with InletHD for the live service.

mDialog leverages the location information available on iPhone and iPad to deliver ads with geo-targeting, day parting, and frequency capping. As Philpott explained during our conversation, geo-targeting allows advertising partners to create multiple advertisements for different geographic locations, and dynamically serve them to the right location in real time. He did note that iPhone/iPad users could decline to send geographic information, so this was a totally opt-in feature.

Day parting sends different advertisements at different times of the day, so a video shown at noon EST could send lunch-related advertisements to viewers in New York City and breakfast advertisements to viewers on the west coast. As the name suggests, frequency capping ensures that a viewer only sees an advertisement a specified number of times, preventing viewer burnout.

Via these collection of features, Philpott commented, the mDialog platform ensures that their partners deliver "the right ad to the right device at the right time in the right market." It also allows their partners to swap their linear broadcast ad with a "highly targeted ad that's uniquely measurable."

Digging into the details, Philpott related that mDialog was itself a video instream advertising platform, with integration with the Doubleclick ad server today, and a roadmap to integrate with others going forward. Content partners can build an iPad/iPhone app via mDialog's software development kit, or use javascript libraries that mDialog supplies to stream directly to the Safari browser.

When used in conjunction with mDialog's video ingest service, mDialog can input the content, create multiple H.264 files for adaptive streaming, divide them into the required chunks, create the necessary image thumbnails and wrap the content in the MPEG-2 transport stream; in other words, soup to nuts file creation for adaptive streaming. Philpott noted that in producing the multiple streams for adaptive delivery, mDialog was following guidelines set forth by Apple in their developer's materials. The smallest stream was a 64Kbps audio feed with a single JPG image, with the highest configuration a 640x360 stream at 1240Kbps.

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