The connected TV ad market is hot right now, but Mike O’Donnell, chief revenue officer of platform business at Vizio, was early to the party.
After starting his media career in print, O’Donnell in 2011 joined YuMe, which was doing desktop video ads. YuMe expanded into mobile and then was one of the first to do internet-connected TV, making deals to help LG and Samsung monetize smart TV-set home screens by selling ads.
O’Donnell moved to interactive advertising company Connekt in 2017. Connekt worked with LG, and O’Donnell pitched Vizio CEO William Wang. When Vizio decided to get into the platform business, Wang brought O’Donnell in to set up a direct sales team. Last year the company launched Vizio Ads and O’Donnell now oversees all of Vizio’s platform business, including its SmartCast content relationships, ad sales and data partnerships. He also oversees Project OAR, the consortium looking to standardize addressable TV.
O’Donnell spoke with Multichannel News senior content producer Jon Lafayette. An edited transcript follows.
What should advertisers jumping into connected TV know about how it’s different from traditional TV? Where the CTV marketplace is really accelerating is around the addressable side of the business. The ability to attach data will drive more addressable buys on the television screen. TV is still the biggest, best screen in the household for all your key branding metrics, specifically with video. As you can layer on more addressability to it, I think there’s a great value proposition for the marketplace, and we’re seeing that.
Vizio recently made a deal to get its advertising measured by Nielsen. Will that help get more TV dollars to shift to CTV? We’re still in the process of the integration with Nielsen. As brands have the ability to look into the streaming world with an easy comparison to what they’re buying on television on a reach and frequency basis, it will definitely help the business. We’ve seen that work for other players in the space.
TV shows on your watchlist? Just finished The Queen’s Gambit and The Last Dance — both great. Yellowstone is next up on the list.
All-time top TV show? The Wire.
Destinations on your bucket list? Italy with my family and can’t wait for the opportunity to get back to Ireland for some golf.
Books on your nightstand or e-reader? Just finished The Algebra of Happiness and Post Corona by Scott Galloway.
Recent memorable meal? It was the last time my whole extended family was together — a big BBQ. We like to do a giant family barbecue every year. We didn’t get to do it this year.
What’s the first thing on your agenda for 2021? My focus is on the best possible experience for consumers. That means constantly deepening our relationships with networks, agencies, brands and content providers and working with them all to develop next generation ad experiences. We are evolving some of our ad product offerings to make it easier for brands to move dollars back and forth between linear and streaming. And we’ll be introducing more ways for brands to measure the effectiveness of TV advertising and better manage and optimize how often an ad reaches a consumer, for instance.
What do you expect companies you work with will be asking for in 2021? Everyone wants to reach consumers in new ways, and as the primary device for shared entertainment experiences, we are bridging the requests of consumers and programmers, advertisers and technology innovators. It’s a unique business. People also know we have unlocked a lot of innovation with [data subsidiary] Inscape, which makes a lot of things possible that weren’t even two years ago. We are leveraging Inscape to improve standards: better targeting, measurement and reporting. The biggest ask is for us to improve advertising, not just between linear breaks, which we do very well, but in the search and discovery process.
How has the pandemic affected how you work? Honestly, this work from
home scenario has been good because I spend a lot of time on the road normally.
So I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with my children. They’re young. I just started playing Xbox with my son and I realized the games are super-complicated and he beats me a lot. He crushes me. We’re playing NBA 2K and Madden. But those things are fun.
Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.
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