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Team Spotlight: Content Operations & the iSpot Ad Catalog

By Shane Leinster, VP Content Operations

Are you looking to measure your TV ads compared to benchmarks and direct competitors?  Need to track the performance of different ad creatives with only subtle variations? Want to test out alternative TV currencies? What you will need is a measurement solution built on a comprehensive and extremely precise ad catalog. Enter iSpot.

Since the inception of iSpot in 2012, we have been capturing and precisely measuring every ad on TV to offer the industry both an alternative to traditional TV currency and a system to measure ad performance based on outcomes. What has resulted is a robust and meticulously maintained ad catalog that is core to iSpot’s suite of TV measurement and attribution products. The catalog is created through a combination of proprietary ad-ingestion software and audio/visual fingerprinting technology, rigorous methodology and an in-house team of uniquely qualified specialists. Altogether, these components separate the iSpot catalog and platform from other comparable solutions in the industry. 

Of course, an ad catalog of this caliber was not built overnight. It has taken nearly a decade of refinement, a massive amount of capital and enormous manpower to master. In this article, I will dive into the history of the ad catalog and the reasons why it is so crucial for customers who are looking for a new TV currency, with a special focus on the team of editors that have shaped it along the way. 

Creating an unparalleled TV ad catalog

The methodology behind the iSpot ad catalog was simple yet fundamentally brilliant: ingest every ad from every network and measure the airings. After an ad is ingested, its audio and video fingerprint makes it available for detection going forward via Automatic Content Recognition (ACR).  

The process allowed for easy use and rapid workflow, so that within a few months the ad catalog had grown to over 20,000 ads ingested from an evolving matrix of broadcast and cable networks. The iSpot platform is also equipped to capture unrecognized content or anything that it has not seen before, which is where the iSpot Content Ops team takes over. 

The COPs at iSpot

In 2014, I joined iSpot to manage the proprietary ad catalog and Content Ops team. This group is dedicated to ensuring new content is rapidly ingested, variations of existing ads are processed accordingly, and metadata is added to the platform, as well as verifying reported ad airings are accurate. My background in TV and film distribution, with experience managing millions of music tracks (and corresponding metadata), helped the team focus on quantity, quality, and accuracy every year. 

Over time, iSpot expanded its ad ingestion processes to include promos for TV shows from every broadcast, cable television, and local affiliate station. Each promo contained metadata identifying its unique promo type. As demand grew for analytics on all TV ad-types, so did the content operations team itself. Today the team stands at around forty full-time employees, including content teams from the recently acquired Ace Metrix and DR Metrix. To get a sense of the volume the team currently handles, at least 6,000 spots will be added to the ad catalog at any given week. So why is the human element of the iSpot process so crucial and ultimately beneficial for TV advertisers? It all comes back to accuracy and the metadata.

Using metadata to take action

The Content Operations team goes to great lengths in order to capture every TV spot and all their various cuts. This level of detail helps TV advertisers measure the performance of different creative versions. For example, a movie trailer can have at least a hundred unique versions, all different and constantly changing as marketing for the movie ratchets up towards the release. 

Another example would be a Chevrolet truck commercial, which might have dozens of creative variations that include evolving offers from region to region and price promotions that change and expire every few days. 

Without the ability to detect and distinguish the different versions, advertisers are not able to test and monitor the performance of their creatives in terms of impressions, attention, conversions and lift. For many iSpot clients, in-flight creative testing is a key use case for getting value out of the platform. One client in the weight loss space in particular launches dozens of creative versions at the start of every campaign. This client then uses iSpot to analyze attention and conversion rates over time and identify the winning versions to reallocate more budget in order to drive up ROAS. This is just another example of why the iSpot ad catalog is such a pivotal part of the greater measurement and attribution platform. 

With over a hundred different metadata points available to each and every spot, advertisers can also unlock actionable insights and competitive analysis on industries across the board such as Quick Service Restaurants, Mattress & Bedding Stores, and Pharmaceuticals. Perhaps no other industry benefits from metadata more than vehicle manufacturers, as iSpot offers reliable insight into whether a vehicle TV spot is classified as Tier 1 (OEM) or Tier 2 (dealership association), a data point of which there is no industry standard and changes from manufacturer to manufacturer. 

iSpot: The present and the future

In 2022, the iSpot ad catalog surpassed 1.7 million TV spots and expanded its scope to include 5 and 3 minute infomercials, in-show product placement content, and ads that are exclusive to streaming (OTT) apps and services. iSpot’s ad detection technology and platform is now streamlined to cater for large-scale client delivery. 
As advertisers and TV networks gear up for a multi-currency marketplace, the measurement companies with comprehensive ad catalogs and holistic measurement are rising to the top. What really separates iSpot is the link between the ad catalog, airings and real-time impressions. Making these connections and corroborating the data requires a sophisticated process involving multiple layers of data, automated tech and human verification. Without the human element, though, iSpot’s suite of products and rich ad catalog you see today truly could not exist. Here is a glimpse of the incredible Content Operations team behind it all.

Quotes from the Content Team

Andrea Davis-Gonzalez: Content Operations Manager

“The Content Operations team, formerly known as Editorial, was made up of only three people [in 2012], and the Editor role started out as an intern position. We had only two responsibilities: bring content into the system and add metadata. That was it. Since then, our team has grown nearly 10 times in size, and we have teams within the team.”

Elin Skaardal: Auto Specialist / Content QA Analyst

“Our auto clients expect us to accurately identify and tag all vehicles shown in their ads, which means an expert like me must be available throughout the day to assist in those identifications. In the past nine months, our team has created and tagged over 700 automotive products in nearly 9,000 new spots. One creative family can have hundreds of unique variations, with some differences coming down to just a change in fine print.”

Flannery Carlos: Technical Operations / Director, Content Ops

“The Content Operations team’s main challenges are scale and innovation, as each week about 6,000 pieces of content are added to the catalog and the iSpot platform monitors well over a million airings. Using both audio and video recognition for detection, technologies that help decipher similar content, and metadata such as language and promotion expiration date, we can ensure the system correctly selects which ad aired when several ads in the catalog may sound and look very similar.”

iSpot’s industry-leading ad catalog and full solution is ever-evolving. Follow our blog for a series of articles on iSpot as a new currency, our best-in-breed ad detection and verification process, new enhancements and more.


About the Author

Shane Leinster is the VP of Content Operations at iSpot.tv. For questions and inquiries, please contact marketing@ispot.tv.