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Measuring OTT Ads: Always-On Attribution with iSpot CEO Sean Muller

iSpot.tv began life as a way for brands to keep track of where their ads—and, more importantly, their competitor’s ads were running. The business has evolved considerably since then and now provides brands with something iSpot calls “attention measurement”—a way to track a particular piece of creative across multiple platforms and devices. To do this, iSpot relies on ACR (automatic content recognition) data from VIZIO smart TVs, which it gets from Inscape.

iSpot’s most recent offering is something the industry calls “multitouch attribution” which tracks online and offline conversions throughout the sales funnel. Multitouch attribution is hot right now because it offers a way for television companies to prove the effectiveness of television commercials.

According to iSpot CEO Sean Muller, this is critical because CMOs are starting to look at television in terms of business outcomes. “When you’re able to measure business outcomes, you’re able to look at TV the same way you look at digital. They can plug their OTT TV campaigns into the marketing stack just like everything else. It’s a very different way of looking at ad spend, but we think companies that don’t start looking at TV that way are going to get left behind.”

In terms of trends, Muller sees the dominance of walled gardens like Roku and Amazon as being the key thing to watch: will viewers and platforms become all about the box, or will, as Muller asks, “distributors keep the swim lanes open?”

Whichever direction they take, iSpot will be able to measure it. “The ability to measure OTT TV ads in a real-time, unified and attributable manner has taken many years of rigorous development and iteration,” he notes. “And now we’re starting to see real market acceptance.”

Sean Muller


What is your company doing to transform TV advertising?

iSpot is transforming TV advertising by giving the industry a new currency on which to transact. This new currency is allowing brands to measure and attribute TV to business outcomes in real-time. By leveraging 9M+ smart TVs and calibrating multiple data sets, iSpot is delivering competitive, impression-based “attention measurement” of ad units. We then take that data and use it to track online and offline conversions. Because our metrics are digital-like, they are transformative in that they allow CMOs to plug TV into the rest of the marketing stack like never before.


What are the opportunities for your company in OTT advertising?

iSpot is able to measure both linear and OTT in real-time to provide insights that go beyond what any siloed OTT measurement source alone can offer.

We work with dozens of OTT platforms to help brands understand:

  • impression delivery by platform and daypart, compared with linear
  • OTT incremental reach, frequency, and overlap with linear
  • OTT conversion rates compared with linear to inform allocation, optimization, and planning


What’s wrong with the conversation right now?

The conversations are not always recognizing the urgency in the TV industry’s transformation. Measuring and optimizing TV investment based on business outcomes is no longer optional for any brand seeking to grow revenue or market share—it’s a must. The ability to measure TV ads in a real-time, unified and attributable manner has taken many years of rigorous development, iteration, and market acceptance. Going forward, we’re going to see rapid adoption of business outcome measurement as currency for media buys on TV. Those who don’t adapt are going to lose market share and be left in the dust.

There’s not enough focus on the quality and scale of the data inputs. For example, new data sets around TV, like set top box and ACR data, are making digital-like analytics for TV possible, but they are often raw and full of holes to start. It’s important to ensure the quality and accuracy of the data before putting it into an attribution model.

There are five distinct data sets that are cross-calibrated together to build accurate measurement that is connectible to business outcomes.

  1. Start with a catalogue of every ad creative on TV
  2. Layer in TV airing schedules
  3. And smart TV data for ads and content viewing
  4. Apply census data for extrapolation
  5. Connect to demographic data and business outcomes via robust device graph

These components make up the engine that creates a data set that is measurement-grade. The next step is to feed measurement-grade data into models that have been vetted, validated and built into products the market has tested, audited, and accepted.


Where are the biggest challenges for the industry?

OTT’s biggest challenge is scale. We have evidence that OTT ads have higher conversion rates, but the incremental reach potential is minimal. Because scale is a known issue, some brands don’t include OTT in their strategy which is a misstep. Some measurement platforms, including Nielsen, can give advertisers estimates of viewership for age/demo, but brands are demanding more answers when it comes to the segments they manage in their marketing stacks.


What percentage of TV advertising will become addressable by 2020?

It’s said that 74% of homes will have addressable penetration by 2020 (VAB). Based on that and the current addressable spend of $2.2 billion in 2018, it’s safe to say that addressable TV will be over $6 billion in 2020, or roughly 11% of all TV ad spend. That’s conservative though, because as penetration increases, scale will increase, attracting more substantial buys.


What is the biggest threat to a thriving OTT environment?

The inability to buy OTT like you buy TV, and to roll up disparate reporting from different platforms into a single metric.


Who wins and who loses (one sentence each)?

Bold brands who break old habits win

Brands still using static reporting and spike analyses lose


What development do you think is most important to watch right now?

Whether hardware/firmware trumps content/ distribution. i.e., are must-see programming and viewing environments reliant on a box? Or do distribution companies keep their swimlanes open?


How do you think networks will adjust the upfronts?

We think networks will adjust the upfronts to be more flexible. Brands will continue to invest a heavy percentage of their annual budget at upfronts, but will demand more flexibility in how it can be allocated and optimized. Brands are also heading into upfronts with more knowledge and insights, and the networks will be ready for that using new metrics as currency to make upfront deals on.


What has more upside? Addressable TV advertising or OTT? Or do they converge?

They converge, with OTT falling under the addressable umbrella because both are targeting a definable audience. As the technology to plug silos into the marketing stack becomes increasingly fluid, the often lamented “fragmentation” of TV is no more. Both OTT and addressable have the upside of digital-like metrics and visibility.



You’ll never talk or think about OTT the same way again.