TechBytes with Blair Robertson, CTO at TVSquared
Hi Blair. Please tell us about your role and the team/technology at TVSquared.
TVSquared is the world leader in TV and streaming analytics globally. We increase the value of video advertising for both advertisers and media owners by measuring, proving and optimizing business outcomes. We have active customers in over 70 countries including publishers, demand-side platforms (DSPs), multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), national and local broadcasters, media agencies and thousands of brands.
As Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President at TVSquared, I oversee a broad range of functions including product and partnerships, customer success, service design, sales and solutions engineering, business intelligence and data science, who focus on researching TV advancements. Overseeing all of these aspects globally means I can closely track and influence how our customers drive most value from our platform.
In the middle of the pandemic, how did you handle your Product Dev and Engineering team?
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve made sure to acknowledge and support our individual team members and their personal circumstances. Working remotely can impact a company’s culture, and make it harder for colleagues to see what’s happening across the wider business.
However, thanks to a wide range of remote communication tools we’ve scheduled more frequent team meetings and all-hands calls so we can regularly check in with the team and make sure the company spirit and objectives stay at the heart of everything we do day-to-day.
What tools and technology platforms do you use to work from your remote location and coordinate directions to the team?
Remote communication tools have been and continue to be essential for TVSquared to operate with our teams around the world. One of the hardest tasks to complete remotely is to foster creativity and develop ideas, and we’ve found Miro to be a great collaborative tool to replicate a whiteboard-based workshop session. In addition, we use a combination of Zoom and Google Meet for calls, Slack for internal communication and to recreate the feeling of being in an office, Asana for collaborative project management and Phabricator to capture additional levels of detail needed for project delivery. These tools also help us provide visibility across the organization at all levels.
How have product development roadmaps evolved in adtech over the last year or so?
Adtech is a large ecosystem and there’s a lot going on. In general, there has been a slight slowdown in rolling out new capabilities as companies take stock, taking time to work through increasing privacy regulations (especially in the US), global ramifications from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the continuing evolution of video.
For TVSquared, our focus is on creating that win-win you get from helping both buy and sell sides get the most value from media. We do this by simplifying the increasingly complex video environment and by focusing on partner development, interoperability and standardization as TV becomes more like digital.
What impact are new formats like gaming, live streaming and on-demand content making on the adtech industry?
The biggest impact is the increasing dispersal of audiences. There are myriad video platforms catering to niche audiences as well as the major OTT players and of course the still dominant linear backbone. Advertisers want wide, on-target reach without waste. The good news is the viewers are there because the content is better than ever, but reaching them is more complicated. It’s a good time for DSPs, however, there’s also a lot of competition in this space which means a need for differentiated offerings especially around advanced measurement and proof of performance.
For TV, the industry is now serious about moving toward an audience and impression model.
GRP based accounting is still prevalent but the sell side is making a concerted effort to give buyers the accountability they are demanding. We’ve also finally moved from having conversations about the theoretical value and validity of attribution and outcome measurement to talking about how the whole industry simply turns it on.
How are you helping businesses deliver the experiences their customers want?
Consumers have more choice than ever before, so organizations have to focus on creating a positive viewer experience or risk audience loss.
At TVSquared, we make advertising more valuable for both the buyer and seller. This means that a broadcaster or streaming service can quantify the value of its airtime to generate ad revenue focused on quality content, rather than quantity, which improves the viewer experience. Consumers get to see ad content that is valuable to them and delivers returns for both the advertiser and media owner.
As an adtech CTO, what do you think about enterprises willing to centralize customer data for marketing and advertising analysis?
Enterprises are usually willing to centralize data, it’s often the practical feasibility that creates the challenge. To gain access to an organization’s first-party data, you need to make sure the output you’re delivering is of value and easy to integrate. Raw data is messy, but there have been a number of advances in consolidation services over the past 10 years. At TVSquared we recognized early on that the most challenging aspect of attribution is really the data management so we have invested heavily in that area to make the experience frictionless.
What metrics do you use to measure the success of your products, solutions and customer success?
You can’t run a modern business without metrics, a few very well thought through metrics are far better than a wide range of poorly conceived ones as metrics that drive undesirable side effects can be a silent killer. Broadly we use two levels of metric; trending (are we getting better) and focus (what should we do next). We keep this format across all functional areas under my remit – customer success, platform engagement, product quality and support effectiveness.
A couple of techniques we have found to be particularly effective are tying customer support tickets to product objectives, rather than functional areas in the product. We also use a customer success index (CSI) that classifies client accounts based on recency and intensity of product usage and then use this to direct specific account management and customer success activities on an individual account level.
Hear it from the pro: How do modern security and privacy measures impact adtech platform development?
There is a time-to-market impact on new functionality because there are more technical and legal requirements to consider. But that’s no bad thing as time spent in design is rarely wasted time. When data flows across multiple organizations in the adtech ecosystem it can be complex. Generally, consent is handled on the viewing device, and the opt-in/out information is passed across multiple systems. The adoption of standards is starting to help introduce consistent design but it’s not yet universal.
There are various implications, one of the most often cited is the revocation of third-party cookies, TVSquared hasn’t been affected by this change as we never relied on them.
Blair is a seasoned data scientist and visualization guru with a background in Artificial Intelligence. He has spent the past 13 years helping global companies improve decision-making and product development through the application of analytics. As TVSquared’s CTO, Blair is an expert in a range of statistical techniques such as data modeling, signal processing and machine learning, which he and his team deploy to continually improve the company’s technology platform.
Throughout his career, Blair has focused on presenting complex technical concepts in an easy-to-consume, business-friendly way and has a reputation for designing analytic products that are highly visual and intuitive.
Previous engagements have included time as principal analyst at Sumerian, where he led analytic engagements with dozens of the world’s largest companies. Blair has also acted as a private consultant for a wide-variety of data-driven companies in financial services, utilities and hi-tech, and as a financial technology consultant with Accenture Plc.
TVSquared is the global leader in TV attribution, bringing scale, speed, control and accuracy to advertisers in more than 70 countries. Powered by viewership and response data from millions of households and billions of ad impressions, the ADvantage analytics platform empowers brands, agencies, networks and publishers to quantify TV’s impact, measure outcomes and optimize performance across TV content everywhere.