The Secrets of Ad Avoidance. Interview with Ashwin Navin

Ashwin Navin, CEO and Co-Founder Samba TV, has been focused on the data foundations of television advertising and broadcasting for several years. There is probably no time more exciting than now to be involved in crafting all of the data coming in from viewership across platforms. 

But, according to Navin, “The challenges are obvious. Audiences are dividing their attention by screens. Right now, 25% of the viewership for primetime TV shows is occurring outside of the TV. It was reported that the Olympics in Rio compared to London declined 17% in TV viewing but consumption on other devices was up +22% Samba is uniquely able to measure the audience across all screens holistically, so that media companies can effectively sell their entire audience and advertisers can more accurately plan their media across screens.”

Charlene Weisler: What data do you collect at Samba?

Ashwin Navin: We have data from hundreds of millions of devices, including Smart TVs, Set Top Boxes, mobile devices and personal computers by way of our software and SDKs integrated across all of these platforms. We also map our customer’s data to these devices in a deterministic manner, so that our customers have precise direction on how to segment their audiences and more effectively reach them.

Charlene Weisler: What is an SDK?

Ashwin Navin: SDK stands for Software Development Kit which is a module within a software application. Our SDK goes inside a mobile application, so that the app developer can get some aggregated data and analysis on its usage. An analogy would be the Lojack in a car. A car manufacturer will include the Lojack module, to help their customers locate the car if it’s in a parking lot or if it gets stolen. "SDK" is industry standard lingo to describe when one company includes a third party's software within its own application. 

Charlene Weisler: What metrics do you use?

Ashwin Navin: We report to our advertising clients reach, frequency, engagement not just on TV but on other screens. Our clients are really excited about the way we measure viewership and report on the effect of ad avoidance on their TV media plan. It’s no secret that ad free services, binge watching and ad skipping are mainstream behaviors, and we can report on their effect at the spot level. TV ad attribution is a hot topic now and we can measure what TV buys are doing in terms of brand engagement post-exposure.

Charlene Weisler: Generally speaking, what percentage of ads are avoided?

Ashwin Navin: On major networks during primetime, we have found that as much as 45% of ads are not being viewed because of ad skipping. This will be a big theme for next year – what shows, genres and dayparts are most susceptible to ad avoidance.

Charlene Weisler: What types of shows are more susceptible to ad skipping?

Ashwin Navin: Strong themes are emerging from the data. Daytime versus Primetime, news, sports, comedy, live, debates – interesting trends are emerging that will drive media spend in the future. Daytime soaps and news, family/kids programming are generally consumed live, as are sports and news of course. The challenges are in dramas especially in the first two seasons of a new show as the audience develops. There is more cross platform viewing and time-shifting, and therefore ad skipping. But should that drama become more popular overtime, and as it becomes a watercooler conversation topic, live viewership starts to build as viewers are more concerned about spoiler alerts. By season five of a good show, the live audience grows significantly.

Charlene Weisler: How do you see ads performing across platforms with your data?

Ashwin Navin: Most of our clients are advertisers. Our data typically helps prove that TV advertising by itself reaches the most people with a story that builds brand awareness. With the addition of digital advertising reaching the same audience on TV, we see that 1+1=3. When someone has seen the brand on both TV and digital, there is dramatically more brand recall, engagement and conversion. Our data helps segment the audience between TV exposed and unexplored, and then makes these segments addressable with the right strategy.

Charlene Weisler: How do you keep ahead of the data trends?

Ashwin Navin: First and foremost, we are a company with an engineering focus. We have about 3 engineers for every 1 salesperson, and that ratio of engineering to sales works really well for keeping our innovation engine running strong. We can keep pushing the envelope as to what is possible, and a singular focus on device-level data is helpful. Device--level data will become the currency of the future because it is NOT tied to any particular content delivery mechanism. To measure over-the-air TV 40 years ago, we used a meter. To measure 500 channels on cable TV, we shifted to cable set-top box data. Now, with OTT services, connected TV devices, DVRs, TV Everywhere apps, traditional measurement won’t suffice. Content recognition across connected devices generates data that much more accurately describes the highly fragmented media landscape we live-in today. It also becomes the foundation for highly precise audience segmentation, as well as deterministic attribution models.

Charlene Weisler: Where do you see the media industry going in the next five years?

Ashwin Navin: We absolutely believe that the consumer landscape will be much more fragmented in the future than it is today. Consumers have absolute control over their media, and fragmentation is the new normal. The measurement challenge will be more pronounced, and the methodology surrounding C3 viewership, with audiences described by age and gender brackets will start to feel inadequate. Media will be described much more precisely in the future, and TV advertising will be priced on a performance basis across every screen the consumer has available to consume video. We intend to be a leader in making that a reality through our technology and methodology.

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