“People have been educated to look away when the ad comes. The issue is not that people don’t like brands anymore or advertising. It’s just the advertising experience is just not good.”
Drawing on expertise that was honed creating the Academy Award-winning visual effects for the 2010 film Black Swan, Mirriad has come up with in-content advertising.
Its technology will identify potential advertising slots within a TV show, or film ripe for use by agencies and brand owners.
A real-world example of this is provided on Mirriad’s website, where a clip from the US hit TV show Modern Family is transformed. It shows two of the main characters talking over the breakfast table. The post-production addition of an advert on the back of a newspaper is seamless when the clip is replayed.
Mirriad’s platform can digitally drop in most marketing assets, but as Beringer points out, some visual effects are easier to create than others. “Placing an Aston Martin in Piccadilly Circus by night in the pouring rain; that is a complex process,” he says.
The advertising experience presented by Mirriad feels organic. A T-Mobile sign atop a building doesn’t look out of place in a wide shot of a cityscape and is certainly far less obtrusive than the pre-roll that makes viewing YouTube clips such a palaver.
As ad loads have increased, so viewers have become inured to them, using blockers on the internet, while in the US, recognising the problem, TV companies have begun dropping the number of slots available to promote products.
Tim Jones, Mirriad’s head of research and insights, provides this analysis: “Because it has become difficult to get above the line, people have pumped more and more advertising out there to get their share of voice. That has driven consumers mad because it has become so intrusive.”
Mirriad appears to have uncovered the antidote to this sensory overload. Its ‘likeability’ score was around 88% across nine campaigns last year. “That’s an unheard of number,” says Jones.
“You ask people and the score (NB: for traditional ads as pre/mid rolls) is usually down in the 20s (per cent).
“A very strong reason why people like the format is that it doesn’t interrupt them and it is highly visible.”
Advertisers and brand owners have begun to recognise the need for change, and Mirriad’s client roster reflects this.
On the content side, it has ties with Chinese giant Tencent, 20th Century Fox, RTL and Univision.
China and US
Beringer, who worked with industry giants Publicis and Omnicom before joining Mirriad, announced a strategic reset last March, which has seen the group concentrating on fewer markets with greater potential profitability.
China, which was just under three-quarters of turnover last year, holds huge potential, as does the US, the world’s largest advertising market.
North American TV and video ad spend was an estimated US$70bn in 2019.
“It is the biggest, most sophisticated market in the world,” says Beringer. “Very logically we have made the strategic pivot to the US. We are not ignoring the other markets, but we have been doubling down on the US since last year.”
The coronavirus outbreak and lockdown has had a significant impact on global ad spend, with a number of major campaigns pulled or postponed.
That said, the heavy focus on China with the Tencent deal has seen Mirriad weather the down global downturn better than some.
Operations in the People’s Republic are picking up the slack left by the Western economies. “In April we had more pitches than the entire year 2019 [in China],” reveals Beringer, who said interest was coming from both local advertisers and overseas.
As of April, the company had just over £14mln in the bank, with cash burn now below £1mln a month, according to the research house Edison.
“The group’s two-year exclusive contract with Tencent in China is clear validation and it is now in advanced talks with several top-tier US entertainment majors,” analyst Fiona Orford-Williams said in a recent note on the company.
“COVID-19 is seriously impacting advertising spend, but Mirriad’s approach potentially redefines the value equation and it looks well placed.”