Read some of the press covering digital media today, and you’d think that TV advertising is going the way of the dinosaurs. After all, web and mobile advertising lets you slice and dice your ads to target narrow audiences in a way that hasn’t been possible with TV, where historically, targeting meant finding programs that appeal to a broad demographic.

Here’s a thought: what if you could combine the fine-grained addressability of digital advertising with the reach and impact of linear TV? It’s not just hypothetical anymore. Europe’s largest pay-TV provider, Sky, is working with Cisco to make it happen with Sky AdSmart. At CES 2015 this week, Cisco and Sky are showcasing their sophisticated and very successful approach to addressable TV advertising. (link to PR)

Broadcast Video, Personalized Advertising

Sky launched AdSmart last year, and they weren’t shy about their goals: to revolutionize TV advertising and reassert TV’s relevance in the growing multiscreen ad market. The company wanted nothing less than to give advertisers web-like addressability in TV ads, with the ability to serve up ads personalized for the households in which they aired, in real time, as viewers watched live TV. And that’s exactly what they did.

Here’s how Sky AdSmart helps advertisers reach over a fifth of UK households:

  • A sophisticated ad-targeting engine that can localize ads as narrowly as by postal code, and classifies viewers according to more than 100 audience attributes, which can be combined for even more fine-grained targeting
  • Seamless ad insertion that swaps targeted ads into linear programs without viewers noticing any change
  • Delivery of all targeted Advertising content via a one-way broadcast network
  • A first-of-its kind viewing measurement platform that tracks ad exposure across millions of set-top boxes (STBs) and tens of millions of viewing events, every day
  • Full compatibility with the UK’s Broadcasters’ Audience Reach Board (BARB) standards, which provides independent measurement capability when operators and brands negotiate ad rates and placement

And Sky was able to roll out AdSmart software on its STBs that were already in Sky homes, without disrupting service or requiring hardware upgrades.

Powered by Cisco Videoscape

If this sounds like a major undertaking, it was. But it was greatly simplified by Sky’s use of Cisco Videoscape control capabilities. Using Videoscape’s scalable software-based building blocks and open APIs, Sky had the flexibility to mix and match internal and third-party services, as well as software- and appliance-based capabilities, and operate them all as a single system. So they could easily integrate new services into their existing ecosystem, with the flexibility to quickly develop, test, and deploy new applications.

Sky used Cisco Videoscape to address many critical aspects of AdSmart, including channel scheduling, encoding, playout, metadata management, content security, and much more. Obviously, existing linear-TV control planes were never designed for this kind of service, so Cisco helped Sky build a new one, with the end-to-end frame-accurate timing necessary for live TV.

Videoscape-Powered Advertising + Linear TV: a Winning Combination

The response to AdSmart has been overwhelming. Hundreds of advertisers have run around a thousand targeted ad campaigns using the system—including a large number that had never advertised on TV before. As of the start of January 2015, over 895 million Sky AdSmart impressions have been served in Sky homes.

The results have been impressive. In just a few months using the new system, advertisers report that targetedads resulted in increases sales, improved brand recognition, and increased likelihood of future purchase compared to standard TV advertisements. You can read some of these customer stories here.

It’s a testament to the amazing things that can happen when you combine a visionary pay-TV provider with the flexibility and speed to market of Cisco Videoscape. And it underlines the fact that, when augmented with next generation video cloud capabilities, TV will remain an extraordinarily powerful medium for high-impact advertising in a multiscreen world.

To learn more about the Cisco Videoscape capabilities that are helping to make all this possible, see our case study of Sky’s AdSmart deployment.

To see the latest news from Sky, read this press release.

 Tweet us @CiscoSP360 with questions or comments.


David Yates

as Director of Service Provider Video Marketing at Cisco