Roku is putting its screensaver—a side-scrolling cartoon city with film and TV-related easter eggs—at the center of its pitch to advertisers during the NewFronts. The so-called Roku City screensaver, which appears when a user has been inactive on their device, will now be available for brands to purchase ad inventory.
Roku brings McDonald's to Roku City as part of new ad format
While brands previously were given ad space on billboards within the screensaver, which Roku says reaches 40 million homes, McDonald’s this summer will be the first brand to appear within the Roku City skyline. The fast food giant will have an animated restaurant with its Golden Arches inserted straight into the screensaver.
“If Roku City was a country, it would be the ninth largest in the world,” said Alison Levin, Roku VP of ad sales and strategy, at the company’s NewFront.
Roku began posting billboards in Time Square featuring the fictional cityscape alongside messages about the platform’s engagement and reach last month, building up to the NewFront presentation this week, according to a release from the company.
And Roku’s event space lived up to the promise, decorated as a faux purple city with neon-lit storefronts vending pizza and burgers. The venue, Chelsea Factory in NYC, was filled wall-to-wall with a crowd of over 430 people, per the company.
And no Newfronts presentation would be complete without the mention of AI. Roku will use the technology to place a brand’s creative against what the company called an “iconic plot moment” in its content library. Head of Roku U.S. Brand Sales Julian Mintz explained that AI will search for “iconic plot moments” within shows and match them up with a brand's message; for instance, an apparel ad could appear when Tim Gunn makes a critique during “Project Runway.”
Roku’s presentation continued the company’s messaging that the CTV platform is not a competitor in the streaming wars, but a supportive platform for all other digital advertisers that viewers access through Roku.
“Netflix, Hulu and Disney+—50% of all Super Bowl streaming took place on Roku this year,” said Charlie Collier, president of Roku Media.
The announcement that elicited the most gasps from the audience was for an upcoming series called “Special Delivery.” The cooking competition show from the creators of “Hell’s Kitchen” will allow viewers to order the show’s winning dishes for delivery to taste themselves, with brand integrations available, Roku said.
In addition to a new slate of original content, Roku also pitched new ad products that support its position as a host platform for other streaming and video platforms. While Roku has previously hosted brand takeovers of its interface, such as for HBO Max’s “House of the Dragon” last year, advertisers can now take over smaller themed content hubs, such as home and garden or sports. The hubs appear at the top of every search page before a user starts typing.
As for venues for traditional creative, Roku recently announced that marketers can take over the Roku Channel and its top 100 FAST channels during the 8-11 p.m. cable primetime slot. While the move positions Roku against traditional TV companies in a battle of reach, it is an interesting move as FAST has risen as a popular option in streaming, contrary to streaming’s on-demand origins.