Innovations Overcome Barriers To Multi-Screen Ad Campaigns

Jeffrey Sherwin, CEO, This Technology

Jeffrey Sherwin, CEO, This Technology

July 5, 2011 – The technology framework Madison Avenue is looking for to enable a streamlined approach to managing multi-screen TV advertising campaigns is closer to becoming a reality than seemed likely not too long ago, thanks to the latest innovations from This Technology.

So far, the cable industry has focused its advanced advertising agenda on the TV set, leaving unanswered the question of when and how MSOs will accommodate dynamic ad placement in time-shifted programming and, eventually, live programming offered as part of the TV Everywhere agenda. Meanwhile, online video advertising in long-form programming is growing by leaps and bounds, with extensions into mobile as video consumption on wireless devices increases.

For all concerned, it’s an unacceptable state of affairs fraught with inefficiencies and missed revenue opportunities, notes Jeffrey Sherwin, CEO of This Technology. “As programmers and operators actively pursue engagement with viewers on multiple screens, taking advantage of the associated ad opportunities that exist for both parties is crucial to monetizing the new ad inventory that will become available,” Sherwin says.

As previously reported (January, p. 1), major ad agencies want to exploit dynamic, addressable placement holistically, rather than developing separate approaches to campaign management in each silo. The question for cable operators is whether they can transform the dynamic TV advertising platform they’re building through the joint efforts of Canoe Ventures, CableLabs and the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers to deliver what Madison Avenue is looking for.

Sherwin believes this can be done in a fairly straight-forward fashion. In a series of product releases, his company has created a software framework that would allow cable operators to bring the TV- and Web-centric advertising domains together and, in the process, open a means of enabling dynamic placements in content positioned for TVE distribution across all devices.

“This really is the foundation the industry needs to deliver the unified campaign management capabilities ad agencies are looking for,” says Michael Collette, CEO of MediaTech Strategies, a consulting firm that works with This Technology. “There’s a lot of interest among industry players in these developments.”

Indeed, just how close that foundation is to commercialization was evident at last month’s Cable Show in Chicago where both Nagra and SeaChange International demonstrated multi-screen advertising campaign management capabilities employing their systems in conjunction with This Tech’s SpotLink software.

This Tech introduced SpotLink earlier this year (see March, p. 14) as an open-source means of interconnecting SCTE 130-compliant Dynamic Advertising Insertion (DAI) systems with broadband ad servers using the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s VAST (Video Advertising Serving Template) standard. The innovation made it possible for programmers to extract SCTE 130 metadata from operator equipment and convert it into a format that can be interpreted and acted upon by those broadband ad servers.

Now new extensions to SpotLink address other requirements that are essential to enabling a multi-screen advertising environment for operators and programmers alike. Working with other vendors, This Tech has already developed plug-ins that allow the software to be used with established cable ad management systems.

For example, SeaChange and This are offering a joint solution that provides operators a single Web-based interface to manage advertising campaigns across VOD, Internet and mobile platforms. The solution leverages the SeaChange Infusion Advanced Advertising Platform with Spotlink to interconnect VOD with broadband Internet and mobile advertising systems, explains Malcolm Stanley, general manager for disruptive technology and monetization at SeaChange.

SeaChange Infusion helps multi-screen video operators manage centralized ad operations, scale to 150,000 insertable channels and millions of ad assets, and migrate to consolidated regional and national advertising systems, Stanley says. With the addition of the Spotlink solution, he adds, “video operators now have a powerful new value proposition to offer advertisers: the ability to dynamically insert ads across their VOD, Internet and mobile platforms and come back with detailed reporting under a single campaign.”

Nagra, employing its OpenTV advertising platform with SpotLink and another This module, SpotBuilder, demonstrated how a non-linear video stream containing a 30-second spot can be synchronized with a related, targeted advertising experience on second screen devices. In the demo two iPads were used to represent two users in different geographical locations. When a national car ad appeared on the TV programming stream each iPad delivered ads tied to local dealerships who sell that particular car model.

The demonstration tapped SpotBuilder to provide rules and a view of the extensible inventory in the stream along with the ability to dynamically control whether interactive ads appear on one or both screens. A plug-in developed for OpenTV’s Participate software to work with SpotLink allowed Participate to deliver decisions to the appropriate ad managers for both the primary ad and the secondary interactive ads.

This Tech has introduced two modules for SpotLink that are designed to overcome remaining barriers to practical implementation of multi-screen advertising support by cable operators. One of these, the SpotLink Data Boundary Manager, gives MSOs the ability to apply data access policy to individual ad requests, effectively controlling the flow of session and subscriber data to internal and external ad-serving solutions.

The ability to manage how data is shared on a per-account basis is vital to MSOs’ ability to engage in multifaceted campaigns involving every type of advertiser, notes consultant Michael Collette. “Operators have sensitive information they want to be able to hold onto even as they’re sharing data vital to a given campaign, so they need to be able to set boundaries on what’s shared and what’s not both within their own ad sales groups and outside,” he says.

“They also want to be able to sell data that’s not competitively damaging to themselves but is useful to programmers,” he adds.”Who knows exactly what business arrangements will be made, but it’s really important for MSOs to have control over how all data is distributed.”

The other module for SpotLink is what This Tech calls the ADS Router, which provides the core architectural flexibility essential to efficient cross-platform dealings with multiple inventory owners. The module enables MSOs to operate multiple, parallel SCTE-130 Ad Decision Services in a single video stream, thereby enabling each ad business to select the most economically efficient solution, including solutions that leverage high-volume broadband ad servers to achieve lowest cost campaign management services.

In other words, Sherwin says, national, marketing and local avails in the same VOD, IPTV or TV Everywhere stream can be routed to decision systems that are optimized for the market structure, business needs, work flow and specific ecosystems of the respective advertising businesses. “Programmers already have a working operation for managing digital inventory online and want to use this to operate nascent DAI inventory,” he says. “This Technology’s ADS Router makes that possible.”

To further streamline how the industry uses the various This Tech piece parts to achieve multi-screen advertising efficiency the company has packaged its primary products into a complete platform for metadata authoring and distribution across VOD, TVE, network DVR and IPTV resources. The MetaWare Product Suite incorporates the company’s primary metadata distribution product, MetaMore, along with SpotBuilder for ad inventory authoring and management and SpotLink for bringing broadband ad servers into the SCTE 130 domain.