Advertisers in Europe are being offered the chance to integrate their television screen and mobile screen campaigns more tightly with a new ‘Sync and Retarget’ solution from Samba TV, a San Francisco based firm that has recently created a Euro HQ in London. One of the chief benefits to a marketer is the ability to recognize what someone is watching on television, in real-time, then target adverts to them on digital properties via demand side platforms (DSPs) based on the knowledge of what they have already been exposed to. A marketer could try to reinforce their television message by exposing the viewer to the same advertisement on their tablet or laptop (when they are in a website or app), either at the same time or later. They could try to target anyone online who they know saw a particular show, rather than a specific advertisement. It could also help marketers to avoid showing ads to people online who have already seen them on television.
The solution is available for use with selected Smart TVs where Samba TV has an agreement with the manufacturer (and its software installed). There is no limit to where the digital ads can be displayed as the company works with a number of DSPs so advertisers can access the inventory they want.
An important benefit of the Samba TV solution is that the television sets recognize what you are viewing regardless of the HDMI source. This is because it uses video recognition technology within the television itself, effectively monitoring the pixels that hit the glass. This means the holistic TV/digital campaigns can be applied to viewers watching OTT content, like ‘The Grand Tour’ on Amazon, or to ads that played out in channels within a cable Pay TV bouquet or on terrestrial free-to-air television. The television-viewed ad could be contained in an OTT stream within a broadcaster catch-up service that is played out via a hybrid set-top box.
The ‘Sync and Retarget’ solution was announced and demonstrated at DMexco last September and a number of agency groups have been lined up as beta customers. This capability has been available in the U.S. since 2014, where many clients use the solution on a regular basis. Interpublic is one of the shareholders in Samba TV.
Samba TV originally provided companion screen advertising apps that worked with Smart TVs, allowing a user to find the local cinema show times on their tablet while watching a movie trailer on TV, for example. In 2015 the company bought Filmaster, a Warsaw-based software start-up specializing in recommendation engines built on artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms.
The Samba TV recommendation engine relies on the same video recognition technology as the advertising solution. This is a form of video fingerprinting, with content on the TV screen matched against a cloud database that is itself generated from a Samba TV headend with hundreds of decoders. Viewing data is anonymized.
According to Ashwin Navin, CEO of Samba TV, a key benefit of his company’s solution for TV-to-digital retargeting is the speed with which advertisers can act. The television set viewing is recognised within 2-3 seconds and the programmatic digital inventory purchases can be made instantly (bids can be made on qualifying ad inventory in less than 100 milliseconds). MediaMath is one of the DSPs working with Samba TV.
Navin believes there is a good demographic spread among the Smart TV viewing population, reflecting the fact that the televisions concerned cost between a few hundred pounds and thousands of pounds. “The viewership data comes from the ‘glass’ so it cuts across siloes of content,” he adds, referring to the fact that you can reach cord-cutting OTT viewers as well as Pay TV subscribers.
He says brands can use this technology to present themselves on all devices within a household. If they use the mobile devices as a companion to their television advertising it creates a seamless and potentially non-interruptive advertising experience. “You can extend a conversation that started with the TV commercial, and you can move seamlessly from TV to a device where they are more likely to make a purchase, too.” The company claims that ‘Sync and Retarget’ means advertisers can ‘own the room’.
“People are multitasking, and messaging with TV and digital makes sense. This makes your TV dollars and your digital dollars work harder,” Navin declares. He confirms that clients could use the solution for frequency extension (reaching the same TV-exposed viewers again, but on mobile devices) and reach extension (targeting people online who missed the ad on television). There is also the option for advertisers to ‘conquest’ their competition, which means ambushing rival TV ads and sponsored shows by filling the online world with your own messages while theirs are on-air.
The recommendation and advertising solutions from Samba TV are bundled for the Smart TV market because the company believes there must be a clear consumer benefit (i.e. easier content discovery) before they allow their viewing data to be collected (underpinning the advertising). The company does not rule out licensing the ad-tech (and service) on its own or working with free-to-air or Pay TV platform operators on their set-top boxes.
Hitesh Bhatt leads the European team from London as VP EMEA for Samba TV. He was previously with Sizmek, Microsoft and Viacom and is a former Digital Revenue and Strategy Controller for BSkyB.