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Ryan Reynolds–backed firm MNTN did a Super Bowl spot with director David Lynch to disrupt the streaming ads business

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A small business can’t usually afford a television commercial, much less a Super Bowl ad that costs $7 million for 30 seconds. But Ryan Reynolds wants to change that. More specifically, the adtech company where Reynolds serves as chief creative officer, MNTN, the self-described “Google Ad Words for TV,” does. 

MNTN ran the same ad for a neighborhood stationery store in Missoula, Mont., called Noteworthy both on the local broadcast of the Super Bowl and on its own platform, where the commercial appeared on a variety of streamers such as Peacock and Sling TV. The difference between a local television ad buy and MNTN’s platform is that the latter comes with reams of data, MNTN CEO Mark Douglas told Fortune

Advertisers just get a better understanding of how effective their ad spend was using MNTN or another platform. Noteworthy’s Super Bowl ad, narrated by Missoula native David Lynch, the film director known for art house classics including Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, reached 259,956 households and was viewed 404,650 times, which led to 221 total visits to its website. The ad that aired on linear TV reached about 30,000 viewers, but the rest of the ad’s impact was a black box. Both the ad buys on MNTN and the local Missoula broadcast cost $10,000, according to MNTN. 

By working with small businesses, MNTN, which gained Reynolds as a chief creative officer in 2021 when it acquired his digital marketing agency, Maximum Effort, sees itself as opening up a new market for companies that didn’t used to do television advertising. “MNTN brings in advertisers who have never advertised on TV before, which increases the size of the ad market” for streamers, Douglas told Fortune

And the connected-television ad market is booming in recent years. As the streaming wars proliferated and various media companies experimented with the right subscription offerings, ad-supported versions became the go-to way to offer consumers a lower price point. Some streamers like Hulu and Peacock always had ads. Others like Netflix and Disney+, the two biggest streamers in the business with 260 million and 150 million subscribers respectively, recently added an ad-supported version after not having one. Most recently, Amazon Prime Video turned its default streaming plan from an ad-free version to one with ads. There are also a host of online versions of a cable package with the likes of Sling TV and YouTube TV that air live programming. Rounding out the category are a host of free ad-supported streamers (known as FAST), like Tubi, Pluto TV, and the Roku Channel. 

That expansion means more places for MNTN’s customers to run their ads, Douglas says. “Amazon and others coming into the market just creates even more supply for those advertisers to access,” he says. 

In 2023, this crowded landscape made for a $25 billion ad market on connected television, according to Intelligence Insider. Douglas says he expects that number to balloon to about $30 billion by 2030. 

While that’s a big number, it’s still a small fraction of the total $364 billion U.S. advertising market. Yet connected television does represent a change in how advertisers think about television advertising. With connected television and services like MNTN, TV ads are no longer just about reaching a broad audience, although they certainly do that as well with events like the Super Bowl

The ability to serve advertisers of all sizes with highly targeted ads makes connected television more like that digital ad market, where consumers can be targeted based on their demographics and browsing history. MNTN does something similar for streaming platforms. For example, Noteworthy’s custom audience was built on people who had recently purchased a holiday greeting card, homeware products, and had shown an interest in “American-made products,” according to data provided by MNTN. Meanwhile, the company joked, the audience for a traditional TV ad was “anyone not in the bathroom during the commercial break.” 

Small businesses represent an underserved part of the streaming TV ad market—mostly because they didn’t previously see themselves as possible television advertisers, but also because traditional TV ads didn’t serve their needs. 

Small businesses “haven’t advertised on TV before because they didn’t have the capability to do precise targeting of who they want to reach and precise measurement of what was the revenue generated by running those ad campaigns,” Douglas says. 

Streaming companies like Hulu and MNTN are taking a page from the digital advertising giants Meta and Google by dedicating resources specifically to small businesses. Douglas says 95% of MNTN’s sales staff is devoted to small businesses. 

MNTN bills itself as the measurement tool for companies that want to advertise on the content that streamers produce. “That’s their value,” Douglas says. “Which homes should we put the ad into? And what happens after the ad is streamed? That’s the value MNTN provides. It’s not what TV networks do, nor do they want to do [it]. That’s what Google does, Meta does, and MNTN does.”

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