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Q&A: Ashish Chordia, Alphonso

Alphonso CEO Ashish Chordia talks about TV data and its likely impact on the video industry.

What are the key applications of TV data and which groups in the TV value chain stand to benefit most?
TV viewership data has always been in scarce supply, gathered typically on a small panel basis for many decades. Census-scale deterministic viewership data from smart TVs, connected set-top-boxes and other living room devices is now a sought-after currency for brands and networks who want to engage verified TV audiences across all screens.

Viewership data can be used not only to better connect with an audience, but also to measure the effectiveness of TV ad campaigns and hybrid TV and digital ad campaigns, in driving actual results. Smart brands are using TV data to understand their TV campaign ROI in great detail; for example, which creatives are driving the most tune-in to a programme, or, which shows and day-parts are most effective at driving foot traffic into stores and dealerships. TV viewership data, at large scale, is also instrumental in media planning and buying both for traditional linear TV, new OTT services and related digital media.

What kinds of data are advertisers looking for and what needs to be put in place to enable both them and TV distributors to benefit?
Advertisers are looking beyond basic demographics to decide where to target their ads and how to optimise campaign spend. Knowing which households have been exposed to an ad for a particular product enables them to optimise ad frequency on a one-to-one basis. And because TV data can also tell them the optimal frequency for driving foot traffic and sales, they can be a lot smarter about their spend.

One of the most common use cases we see in the US is conquesting a competitor’s audience. Advertisers can utilise viewership data not just for their own brand, but for their key competitors or their entire category. So they can compete for mindshare in a much more effective way by reaching granular audience segments (for example, people who have seen my competitor’s ad) across all the devices they use, in a more personal, interactive way.

What other uses of data are being prioritised by device manufacturers and TV service providers and how do they stand to benefit?
TV broadcasters and networks benefit from having access to real-time audience insights, which allows them to understand audience trends on how shows are being consumed. They can better understand audience loyalty for  certain shows, which in turn helps them promote the shows better to increase monetisation of ad-supported content.

On the device side, smart TV makers can now have a much deeper understanding of how their customers interact with their product. Real-time audience dashboards can give TV OEMs a direct view into product usage that they have never had before. And this data becomes the foundation for value-added services that create more stickiness for their customers, like personalised discovery and recommendations that take advantage of large-scale viewership data. To put this into context, if a household never misses an Arsenal match, the TV should know to automatically recommend a breaking sports news clip about a trade of an Arsenal player or a game highlight they may have missed.

And with the amount of viewership data that is available, the days of the static electronic programming guide are numbered. Why should my on-screen guide be the same as yours, if we generally watch very different types of programmes? With content fragmented across live linear TV and OTT, TV data becomes a means of universal search and discovery. It’s time to think about not just presenting what’s on for all viewers, but presenting a curated list of upcoming programmes – whether on  linear TV, apps or OTT services, that is tailored to each individual viewer or household. Large-scale TV data will get us there in the next few years.

What challenges stand in the way of the industry as a whole making the most of TV data? And what solutions are available?
The challenges are in three main categories: adoption, consumer experience, and overall maturity of the digital TV ecosystem. First, the industry’s tools, methodology, processes and norms need to evolve out of the currently trusted panel-based models, toward using true census scale data. That change is happening at fast pace, but still has a long way to go. Alphonso for one offers free TV ad campaign insights on thousands of US brands and brand categories, and this free access will be coming this year to the UK.  Second, the consumer experience has to be bullet-proof. Privacy is a key concern from the consumer perspective and the industry needs to self-regulate and build better practices wherever consumer data is concerned. A high level of trust between the industry and consumers is paramount.

We have endeavoured to build consumer choice and privacy into the core of our products, and that remains a top priority as we enter new markets. Finally, the overall TV and big data ecosystems must come together to develop means of data exchange that can lead to high-value services such as advanced audience measurement across all forms of TV, and attribution reporting for TV ads. This is something we’re happy to be working on with MTM, Sky, Adobe, EGTA and others, as part of a consortium to help drive understanding and awareness of cross-platform, cross-border measurement.

Other industries with complimentary data sets have made much more progress than the TV industry in understanding the value of combined data sources. Expect TV data to help brands have a much better understanding of how TV drives auto sales, CPG sales, foot traffic, website visits and app downloads.  We’re driving massive innovation in multi-touch attribution and cross-media effectiveness.

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