KERV Is Betting On Interactive, Shoppable Video As More Than Just A Novelty

The following interview was conducted by Allison Schiff of AdExchanger. Click here to read the full article.

The technology that underpins interactive video platform KERV Interactive has a colorful origin story.

It was created by an inventor named Andrew Welch, who previously devised the functionality that allows TV meteorologists to move weather and storm graphics around on green screens. Welch licensed the patent to ABC, NBC and CBS for their news broadcasts. His next project was to develop a telestrator for John Madden to draw freehand sketches over moving video images.

In 2014, he founded a startup called Grabit to try and make a business out of another one of his patented creations: pixel recognition technology for interactive video.

That business didn’t take off, but the technology caught the eye of Gary Mittman, an ad executive who decided to acquire it, along with all related patents. He renamed the company KERV Interactive, created a monetization platform and took on the CEO role.

Today, KERV has 35 employees, a roster of brand clients – including eBay, Troy-Bilt, Callaway and Carhartt – and closed an $11 million round of venture capital in April 2019.

Mittman spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: What’s your WFH situation?

GARY MITTMAN: I have two kids, 6 and 9. The 9-year-old takes Zoom classes on his laptop while I’m doing Zoom calls with clients. It’s like we’re The Jetsons.

How does KERV’s technology work?

The platform is a lot like a video-editing dashboard. We ingest a video and then use AI and machine learning to dynamically recognize the objects in the video and precisely trace the shape of each object to its pixel edge. There could be 50 different objects within a single image in a video and each one can be uniquely identified. For a 30-second ad, this whole process only takes a few minutes.

On top of that, we have a bunch of different features and capabilities, including tracking, multiline tag creation and integrations with the likes of Moat and Integral Ad Science. The videos are made to be programmatically distributed, and they’re player agnostic. You can also add in video overlays, like add to cart, form fill, links or descriptions.

Can you share a real example?

We integrated a map into a video for a local food delivery company that you could click on to choose a store and place orders in real time. We also did something neat for a studio that wanted a specific sound to play every time someone would mouse over items in their video that were related to a movie they were promoting.

How do you do the distribution?

We have our own managed DSP. When we work with brands and agencies directly, we get the IO and our in-house team buys the media programmatically. But we also provide what we call managed SaaS. We’ve done integrations with large publishers so that they can sell the capability of interactive video across their platforms, and then once they do we take it from here.

We’re set to release a SaaS platform sometime in 2021 that lets clients log in and do it for themselves.

Do people actually buy things from interactive videos?

To answer that, I’ll share an example. During the holidays last year, we ran a campaign with a big retailer that ended up selling out of the product they were promoting in the video, which was a leather jacket. They had to call us up to ask if we could quickly change the link to a general landing page rather than the specific product page for the jacket. People aren’t just clicking and exploring these videos, they’re buying from them.

What type of metrics do you track?

We look at views, time spent, scene saves, clicks, shares, interactions, swipes and many other things like that. But what separates us is that we’re optimizing interactive video by user engagement. If you’re optimizing by views only or some other standard application, that’s fine, but all you’re saying is that someone didn’t skip. There’s no depth of knowledge. But if someone clicks through, that’s actionable data related to real user engagement.

Studio production is shut down right now. Are you seeing more marketers repurpose existing creative assets?

People are coming to us with the assets they already have and asking us to change the messaging, which helps them be efficient and sensitive to the current situation. We’re also seeing a boost in activity from agencies and brands that want to make their videos interactive and use them to promote ecommerce. Ecom is becoming a priority for everyone right now.

What’s on the road map?

We’re always releasing new features. We recently launched support for vertical video, for example. Big picture, though, we’re thinking about OTT and the fact that streaming video only has two modes of monetization right now: ads or subscription. But there is a third option: in-show monetization. And by that I mean the ability to add interactivity to scenes in shows and movies.

It can’t be intrusive, which has been the case for interactive technology historically. To avoid that, we allow people to click and save scenes and then continue watching. They can go back anytime and interact later if they want to.

We think user behavior will evolve into a deep comfort zone with video interactivity. It’s already happening.

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April 11, 2024
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Rich Kentopp
VP, Product Management

After his career of being a pastor and touring musician, Rich started his technology career almost a decade ago with many of the KERV leadership at Lin Digital. Since then he has been a Product leader at three different scaling startups, learning how to build valuable products with teams who love to work together.

Devin Monds
Head of EMEA Sales

Devin is a dedicated and experienced media sales professional with over 15 years in the digital media space in both North America and EMEA. He most recently headed up the International Team at Adludio, the premier advertising platform for delivering strong creative on mobile devices. Prior to his role at Adludio, Devin worked on the Global Brand Partnerships team at CAA Sports in London, and was International Sales Director at LoopMe where he built out the US West Coast Sales Team from Los Angeles. With a proven track record of new business development and revenue generation, Devin has a multitude of solid relationships with brands and agencies, globally.

He relishes the opportunity to engage with new clients on a daily basis, in order to identify tailored solutions that can drive their desired outcomes. Furthermore, he takes pride in his culinary skills, often experimenting with new recipes and delivering delectable results.

    Brad Quinn
    Senior Vice President, Enterprise & Publisher Partnerships

    Brad Quinn is the Senior Vice President, Enterprise & Publisher Partnerships based out of our NYC office. He has over 15 years of experience across Agencies, Publishers and Tech. At KERV, Brad leads the Partnerships team focused on content providers and distributors. He integrates KERV’s tech capabilities across ads and content to create a real‑time interactive/shoppable experience.

    David Knight
    VP of Engineering

    Before joining KERV in 2018, David Knight spent over 31 years building software products for large corporations like IBM and Schlumberger, 3-person “garage” startups and everything in between. He’s spent the last 15 years discovering and refining the tools, development process, and necessary culture that create great Engineering teams capable of meeting the special demands of technology driven startups.

    Dan Bloomfield
    VP of Technical Ad Operations

    After spending time living in New York and working for NBC Universal’s first digital operations team Daniel moved to Austin in 2009 to further pursue ad tech. During the next decade, he built a career working on interactive video first for Sizmek and then Nexstar. He immediately jumped at the idea to work for KERV and was one of the first to join the company in 2017.

    Creed Pettit
    SVP, Head of Partnerships

    Creed Pettit is an entrepreneurial sales executive offering experience in all aspects of solutions selling, team management, negotiation, organizational leadership, go-to-market strategies and momentum driven models. Prior to joining KERV, Creed served as Media & Entertainment Vertical Sales Leader, Global Business Solutions at TikTok.

    Karen Germ
    VP of Marketing

    Karen Germ is a seasoned marketing and communications professional with a nearly 15‑year history serving in leadership roles across the advertising and technology landscape. Most recently, Karen served as OAAA’s VP of Marketing where she implemented industry leading initiatives to elevate and promote the power of OOH for advertisers, agencies, partners and consumers. 

    Ryan Schoenfeld
    VP of Digital Strategy

    Ryan Schoenfeld’s career started as an intern at a smaller digital media agency while attending the University of Texas. Since then, he has spent over 15 years working in the programmatic advertising/video space.

    Bill Roberson
    VP of Media

    Bill Roberson has worked in the digital space for over 17 years, spanning Media Buying, Ad Operations, Analytics and Optimization, Account Management and now Creative.

    Grant Gorton
    VP of Creative

    Grant has been with KERV as VP of Creative for over 5 years, and has worked as a designer and creative director at agencies and media companies for the last 17 years.

    Michael Fleischman

    Michael Fleischman serves as the CFO at KERV Interactive in addition to being an Executive Residence at Progress Partners, a Merchant Investment Bank and Venture Fund. Prior to KERV Interactive, Michael was the CFO and current Board Member at Digital Remedy, a privately-held media execution company supporting agencies, publishers, and brands in navigating the complex adtech landscape of digital success.

    Previous to Digital Remedy, Michael spent 20 years at Cablevision and Rainbow Media Holdings during which he was instrumental in the launch and management of multiple regional sports networks and a number of national cable networks including American Movie Classics, Bravo, The Independent Film Channel as well as the structuring of partnerships with companies including Liberty Media, NBC, Fox/NewsCorp, and MGM. 

    A native of the New York City area, Michael resides with his wife where he enjoys biking, tennis  and spending time with his wife and three adult children.

    Taylor Pate

    Taylor Pate serves as CTO at KERV Interactive. Taylor’s experiences in the advertising and creative industry spans 14. He began his career in 2008, working as a designer, animator and art director specializing in the design and production of interactive art. Early in his career, he created 3D character animations and tools for best-selling video game series The Sims while working at Edge of Reality, who developed video games for Nintendo 64, GameCube, PlayStation and Xbox.

    In 2012, Taylor made the shift to work in-house at an online advertising and media services agency, LIN Digital, where he was promoted multiple times in a four-year span. He worked on a variety of online, interactive projects for clients while also developing and automating internal tools and processes. Taylor then spent the next two years working as the director of engineering at multi-platform digital media company HYFN Local, a division of multi-billion-dollar corporation Nexstar Digital LLC.

    Jay Wolff

    Jay Wolff serves as Chief Revenue Officer at KERV Interactive, leading global revenue and partnerships, in addition to being the Executive Vice President of 212 NYC, New York’s leading organization for the digital advertising industry. 

    Jay’s expertise in revenue and partner growth in the advertising industry spans 19 years. Most recently, Jay served as CRO of Varick Media, and Chief Growth Officer at Boostr, the first end-to-end SaaS revenue management system for media companies. Previously, as Regional Vice President of SambaTV, Wolff built the revenue organization and east coast market from the ground up. 

    Prior to joining SambaTV, Wolff served as Vice President of agency and brand partnerships at PulsePoint; instrumental to the merger of ContextWeb and Datran Media.

    Jay holds a BS in Marketing from Syracuse University and a Certificate of Management from the University of Chicago. He resides in Rye Brook, NY with his wife and daughter, Olivia. 

    Dan Bienenfeld

    Before co‑founding KERV in 2017, Dan Bienfeld spent the previous 35 years founding six start‑ups in various verticals such as publishing, licensing, med‑tech and ad‑tech. Within these companies, he enjoyed two meaningful exits, which provided him with the ability to continue his passion as an entrepreneur. 

    Aside from bringing together ‘Rock Star Talent,’ his main focus has been raising over $50M, primarily for the startups identified above, as well as creating strategic partnerships. Currently he lives in Westlake Village, CA with his wife and two kids. In addition to his entrepreneurial journey, he also enjoys working out, traveling and an addiction to sushi.

    Gary Mittman

    Gary Mittman brings more than 30 years of experience in technology and direct marketing, as well as substantial experience in building startups to exit with creativity and agile development. Before starting KERV, he held numerous top‑ranking leadership roles, including Founder & President of Nami Media (which was acquired by Lin Media/Nexstar Media Group), CEO & Founder of Marina Communications (also acquired), and Vice President of New Business Development, Direct Response at Western International Media (now Initiative Media).

    Gary also brings a decade of experience in the entertainment industry, including managing all booking for New York City’s premiere performance night club, The Ritz, as its Executive Manager and Booking Agent, Executive Producer of the MTV concert series ‘Live At The Ritz’, a Professional Manager at Chappell Music Publishing, and started out as an Assistant to legendary Clive Davis at Arista Records.

    Andi Fenster

    Andi Fenster went into the profession of Human Resources 30 years ago, because she believed from a young age that the way you treat your employees is what you get out of them. Her goal as an HR professional has been to help create the type of work environments that inspire folks to want to come to work. She is also a Management/Leadership/Career Coach and her focus is optimizing humans focusing on the mind‑body connection. 

    “We, each, have tremendous potential and the abilities to level‑up if we choose to understand how to get the support we need to get us there. Helping talent thrive and helping them create success is my reason for doing what I do.”

    Marika Roque
    COO & Chief Innovation Officer

    Marika Roque is a top expert in digital media, data and organizational infrastructures recognized with over 15 years of professional leadership experience. Previous to KERV, Marika worked as the vice president of digital operations for Mass2, a division of multi-billion-dollar corporation Nexstar Digital LLC. Prior to Mass2, Marika served as vice president of digital media activation at LIN Digital.

    Marika has held senior-level positions for leading advertising agencies in the Austin, Texas area including Sizmek and GSD&M. She also spent years in Chicago working for FCB Global and Starcom MediaVest Group. While at Starcom, Marika was recognized for her involvement in the creation of the first agency-side programmatic pipelines and what the industry now refers to as an agency trading desk.

    Marika holds a Bachelor’s in Advertising from The University of Texas at Austin, which she achieved while also participating as a former D1 collegiate athlete.