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SilverPush uses AI to bridge the gap between TV and digital devices in real time, allowing marketers to target messages in new ways

How many people these days watch TV with one eye on the big screen and the other on their smartphone? Quite a lot, but reaching this "multiscreening" audience effectively is a growing challenge for marketers.

That's where SilverPush comes in. The India-based company has developed a marketing-tech platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help capture viewers' attention as it shifts from one screen to another in real time. That's an approach that has great potential in mobile-mad Southeast Asia, especially Thailand.

Established in 2012, the company aims to help brands maximise their audience engagement via real-time television tracking and synchronisation from TV to digital.

"We have stumbled upon the gap between TV and digital -- and I use the word stumbled because that was how this entire technology came to be -- and it is currently being used in markets across Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East," Kartik Mehta, chief revenue officer and head of Asean for SilverPush, told Asia Focus.

"Our further expansion into Southeast Asia is intended to help more brands operating there to reach their multiscreening customers more effectively via a real-time platform."

With one of the world's highest internet and mobile penetration rates, in addition to brands' investment in TV in the region, Southeast Asia has become the company's "biggest priority", he said.

According to the "Digital in 2018" report by We Are Social and Hootsuite, internet penetration in Southeast Asia at the start of this year was 58%, compared with a worldwide average of 55%. Mobile connections compared to population were 141%, versus 112% globally.

SilverPush first came to Thailand in August 2017 and since then it has expanded from India into 12 other countries, said Mr Mehta.

In Asean, it has a presence in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam while Singapore is its regional headquarters. It also has offices in Japan, Dubai, Egypt, Nigeria, Tanzania and South Africa, and is looking into six to eight other markets before the end of next year.

Its customers include regional brands such as Indofood, Unilab and Tiger Beer, as well as big multinational names including Unilever, Nestle, KFC, Coca-Cola, Samsung, Ford, and Johnson & Johnson.

SilverPush pioneered "TV-sync" technology in India three years ago. It has also patented video fingerprinting and content recognition technology that helps brands engage with multiscreening audiences.

TV has long been the dominant medium for advertisers in India and Southeast Asia, but the gap between TV and smartphone ownership has narrowed. Now brands have to reach audiences across multiple platforms.

"Since 2016, we've helped to bridge the customer journey of brand engagement between TV, search, social media and mobile platforms," said Mr Mehta. "We aim to further develop our real-time solutions going beyond TV to more contextual formats to help raise audience engagement."

The main pain point for marketers in developing markets is the fundamental shift in where audiences are consuming content. In the past there was only one screen to look at, and we were glued to it. Now, computer, tablet and smartphone screens are all completing for attention as well.

With multiple channels to relay brand messages, the challenge is where to put your resources including time, budget and people. Most marketers in Asia still devote at least 40-50% of their budgets to TV, according to Mr Mehta. But spending hundreds of thousands of baht on a 15- or 30-second TV commercial -- plus production costs -- no longer seems as effective as it once was.

Zenith, a multinational media specialist that helps advertisers improve their return on investment, believes that mobile advertising will "comfortably overtake" TV in 2021 if it maintains its current growth rate of 21% a year. Traditional media, such as TV and radio, are still growing but at a very slow rate at 1% a year.

Zenith forecasts that mobile advertising will account for 30.5% of global ad spending in 2020 with a value of US$187 billion. That would be a 19.2% rise from 2017.

Online advertising is also shifting rapidly from desktop to mobile as the smartphone becomes the first point of online access for millions of consumers, especially in developing countries.

Online video and social media are currently the driving forces of ad spending on the internet with an expected average annual growth rate of 18% and 16%, respectively, between 2017 and 2020. This reflects the increase in cheaper and more convenient access to higher-quality content such as Netflix, and improvements to the mobile viewing experience because of better 4G connections.

Nevertheless, shifting resources to mobile advertising only might affect brands' ability to win new customers, as traditional media are still more effective at promoting recall among new buyers, according to Zenith.

Around 53% of potential customers are likely to recall TV ads as existing consumers, while mobile ads have just a 41% recall rate, according to the company's Touchpoint RoI Tracker. Consequently, it recommends that brands understand how to use both acquisition channels and retention channels effectively.

This shift from advertising on traditional media to online and mobile is where SilverPush has found the "sweet spot" for its business, according to Mr Mehta.

"Marketers are still spending on television while their audiences are shifting in real time and that is the problem where this market is at," he said. "And this is where the TV-sync technology is suited to the sweet spot of getting into all audience segments."

These days, when a commercial comes on television, sometimes you will look at it if it interests you. After that, there will be a moment where your eyeballs switch to one of your mobile devices, and that is the moment where marketers should want to be, Mr Mehta says.

The company's technology, which utilises the combination of data with AI, basically connects the TV commercial that consumers see to an engagement option that will pop up on their mobile device at the right time. It could be another interactive advertisement or an online community that is related to the product, along with content that the viewer could share on social media.

"We basically follow the eyeballs from the TV to the second screen and reach out to the audience in real time -- and this is the exact behaviour that we see in India, Africa, Middle East and Southeast Asia," Mr Mehta said about the "moment-marketing strategy" that the firm uses.

AI detects "triggers" on TV, such as the moment one team scores a goal, and then selects the appropriate pre-prepared social media messages to be sent out with representations of the client, such as logos, to allow the brands to be there at the moment when people interact with the triggers. This allows them to stay relevant as part of their consumers' community, according to Mr Mehta.

"If your team scores a goal on television, you would most likely want to chat with your friends and the key is for brands to get into that conversation in real time at the moment when it happened on TV," he said. "This could all happen within five seconds and this is where our video fingerprinting and content recognition technology comes in."

SilverPush expects technology will develop into something similar to the "red button" on digital television, which you could select on your remote control to order services. But in this case, imagine using your mobile device instead of the remote control to interact with the ad on TV directly. You could buy anything you see on TV or share your team stats almost instantaneously. Now that is really seamless.

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