ThinkAnalytics’ foray into advertising has been some 10 years in the making, sitting patiently for targeted and addressable technologies to really kick off in earnest before unleashing its data-crunching capabilities to the ad industry. There was more than an element of coincidence then to the product launch last month, but the firm of content recommendations renown this week part-discredited our assumptions that ThinkAdvertising was inspired by the success of Sky AdSmart.
Not only that, but CTO Peter Docherty, speaking to Faultline this week, claims there is even scope for Sky to expand its ThinkAnalytics customer relationship beyond content discovery to ThinkAdvertising – despite the two respective addressable advertising systems appearing to overlap fatally.
“ThinkAdvertising wasn’t inspired by Sky AdSmart, but we see AdSmart as leading the way in the industry,” admitted Docherty, adding that AdSmart is part of a much larger ecosystem so any comparisons are a little unfair, which we confessed as such a few weeks back.
So, what happens when a company like ThinkAnalytics – renowned the world over as a recommendation software expert with the tier 1 operator accounts to match – expands horizontally with a new product launch? Does it turn a critical show like IBC into a frustrating scenario of trying to convince customers to look at your shiny new product? Docherty noted that feedback from the IBC show floor was good, although he could not name any customers. An advantage to being ThinkAnalytics, however, is the ability to add individual data from the recommendations side of the coin to the addressable advertising process – putting the UK vendor in a unique position from where it can allow advertisers to really drill down and add real depth.
“Advertisers want to create memories. You can do this by adding geo-location and graphic data, while we add depth with demographic and monetary data – taking our proprietary algorithms and putting them in the hands of advertisers,” explained Docherty. “Demographic data is fundamental to ads, but not so much in recommendations. This is not just about adding another 200,000 attributes.”
It claims greater granularity over rival systems which only focus on household-level data, whereas ThinkAdvertising allows operators to pull a variety of individual-level attributes for advertisers to select from – ultimately meaning more highly targeted dynamic ad insertion capabilities for broadcast and streamed TV.
The launch of ThinkAdvertising in fact marked two firsts – not just the vendor’s entry into ad tech but the first time ThinkAnalytics has offered its AI and machine learning-driven content discovery platform together with demographic data. As such, ThinkAdvertising allows pay TV operators and pure play OTT services to combine their in-house customer and demographic data with the data-driven learnings from ThinkAnalytics’ own systems.
“You can’t really roll back time with advertising data. Advertisers could be targeting ads based on data from the previous occupants of a household and have no idea,” Docherty revealed. Such a scenario would apparently not arise with ThinkAdvertising.
There is a real hunger at ThinkAnalytics which in recent years has seen it explore options outside its core comfort zone. That said, a quick revisit of the ThinkAnalytics website sent some alarm bells ringing. ThinkBigData, ThinkMarketing and ThinkBusiness have all disappeared from the products page. Docherty quelled our concerns though, revealing that ThinkMetadata has taken on the big data responsibilities while marketing has been folded into ThinkInsight.
ThinkAnalytics is also fresh off the back of landing a corker of a deal at Deutsche Telekom to personalize the German operator’s content discovery across OTT and pay TV services – boasting one of Europe’s largest ever deployments of advanced search and discovery platforms. The deal apparently had no connection to the recent capitulation of Zenterio, the incumbent OS and middleware supplier at Deutsche Telekom and a fan of XroadMedia recommendation software.
Roll out of the ThinkAnalytics software actually began in July at DT’s Croatian outfit Hrvatski Telecom for the new OTT video platform, which is set to spread throughout the continent. ThinkAnalytics is working in partnership with Pan-Net, DT’s technology unit, which supplies a standardized, cloud-based infrastructure to support future deployments.
As for future deals, long-term customer the BBC this week outlined plans for an ambitious iPlayer revamp, the platform’s biggest since 2007 (see separate story in this issue). ThinkAnalytics couldn’t comment on whether its recommendation engine would continue to be part of the BBC’s video streaming endeavors, but we speculate the BBC is a safehold.
“I’m not going to tell you exactly what I think the next big thing is as you’ll just go and write about it,” was Docherty’s response to Faultline’s probes back at NAB in April. In hindsight, perhaps we should have guessed that addressable advertising was the vendor’s next frontier, hopefully with brighter prospects than ThinkMarketing.