Walmart goes from big-box stores to the small screen with Vudu ad network
Walmart, in a bid to grow an advertising business with the clout of its commerce empire, unveiled a new video ad network that it claims will reach half of U.S. households at its first official NewFronts on Wednesday.
The company's Vudu Audience Extension network will provide “retail-connected, premium TV” to advertisers through Vudu, its video-on-demand platform that streams ad-supported shows and movies. The extension network will help advertisers reach more viewers than just the ones on its own service.
“Retail connectivity wasn’t big enough on Vudu,” said Scott Blanksteen, VP of product management at Vudu, at the presentation in New York City.
“Advertisers can easily purchase inventory on Vudu and across the extension network,”said Ben Simon, Vudu’s head of video ad sales. “And [advertisers can] dynamically insert TV video ads across a video marketplace of streaming platforms.”
Simon said the extension network would potentially reach into 50 percent of U.S. homes.
Vudu executives also showed off its evolving “shoppable ads,” which let consumers add products to their online shopping carts. The ads are dynamic so that if a viewer is known to favor a specific variety of a brand’s product, that will be the one in the promotion.
While Walmart did not release stats about Vudu’s audience size, it also announced a new partnership with Nielsen to measure ratings.
Audience Extension will also multiply the potential universe for ads served to Walmart shoppers on streaming properties outside Vudu. Walmart did not name the media partners for the extension program, but said they'll be comprised of video properties that connect to over-the-top TVs, which is how more consumers watch shows and movies without a traditional cable subscription.
“We’re partnering with other [over-the-top] services to be able to identify, target and measure sales performance against all Walmart customers,” Blanksteen said. “Wherever they’re watching, not just on Vudu.”
Though Walmart did appear at Digital Content NewFronts West last year, this was the company’s first showing at the main event in New York. Walmart has taken a sharp turn into the world of advertising in the past year after seeing the success Amazon has had in the space by combining its shopper data, e-commerce shopping website and growing media properties.
This year, Walmart has built up its in-house media services team to help brands buy ads on its websites and video service, and it acquired an ad tech company called Polymorph Labs.
Walmart thinks it has the advantage over Amazon because of its wealth of data on the 250 million people in the U.S. who shop in its stores and online properties every year.
“Anybody who’s got anything to sell knows that the best indicator of future purchases is past purchases,” Blanksteen said. “Because we have this rich history of past purchases, we can make marketing to your customers targetable to a degree you simply cannot find anywhere else.”
It wouldn’t have been a NewFronts event without new shows, too. Walmart is venturing into new territory, investing in programs for Vudu instead of solely relying on what the studios and networks provide.
The company says there are a dozen shows in the works, including one it previously announced, “Mr. Mom,” a modern remake of the 1980s movie.
Walmart is promising family friendly shows for brands, which can sponsor “deep integrations” into the programming.
Walmart will stream the first episodes of the reboot of Nickelodeon’s “Blue’s Clues” before it airs on the linear network,and is also offering up a kids' program called “Adventure Force 5.”
Vudu said a show called “First Look,” developed with Variety, would offer brand partnerships with studios and retailers.