As the head of engineering and product at iSpot.tv — the Bellevue, Wash.-based television ad measurement and analytics company — Anthony Skinner has a proven history of helping customers understand which of their commercials are moving the needle with audiences.
In the week leading up to and directly after this Sunday’s Super Bowl, when millions will tune in and many more millions will be spent on ads, iSpot.tv puts in overtime analyzing the performance of ads from Budweiser, Amazon, T-Mobile, Jeep and many more. Skinner admits that he’ll laugh along at ads like anyone else who is watching. So what’s it take to go viral?
“I’m not a genius,” said our latest Geek of the Week. “But it seems like animals are always the key.”
Skinner joined iSpot.tv as a board member in 2013 and took on his current role four years ago.
“In the early days, it was just two friends (Sean Muller, our CEO, and Scott Happell, our chief architect). During iSpot.tv’s first year of providing measurement, it was clear that there was a need in the market. We have grown substantially over the last six years,” Skinner said, adding that the company now employs 170 people, and the customer list is a who’s who of big-name brands.
Skinner, who got a degree in economics with a minor in computer science from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., was previously the CTO at Moz, the Seattle marketing analytics software company.
iSpot.tv is evolving, in so far as what it watches and measures, as much as people are evolving in how they actually watch TV. Skinner said the company is partnered with networks like NBC to determine how customized or “addressable” ads — called the “hottest new trend in TV tech” in this Axios report — fare in comparison to traditional linear TV ads.
Addressable ads can target specific households with content that aligns to user data from that household. iSpot.tv’s goal is to be able to measure and report back to customers and networks whether specialized ads drive more revenue and calls to action than regular ads.
The rise of OTT commercial-free services such as Netflix and Amazon hasn’t reduced the necessity for iSpot.tv.
“As more OTT players have come into the space, it has actually increased our visibility to ad buyers because one of the things you’ll find is you don’t necessarily want someone like Hulu measuring their own homework, grading it and saying, ‘Here’s what we have,’” Skinner said.
iSpot.tv’s technology runs across all platforms and everywhere a customer places an ad — including on digital.
“It’s kind of a misnomer that we’re only TV,” Skinner said. “We actually do it all. I think that’s only growing.”
Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Anthony Skinner:
What do you do, and why do you do it? Obsess about the quality of our data. iSpot.tv is used by a large number of Fortune 500 companies, startups, and numerous others companies to gain insight into not only their ad spend, but that of their competitors. The only way to have actionable data our customers can count on is to ensure our data is high quality.
What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? People outside of our industry of Marketing Technology always ask, “Isn’t traditional TV dead?” Traditional TV is not dead! Traditional ad spend was $78 billion in 2018. Admittedly, cord-cutting is growing, and ad spend on OTT platforms is slightly smaller, but not insignificant (about $5 billion in 2018). The large number of OTT platforms makes it impossible for advertisers to understand an ad campaign’s effectiveness. This advertising landscape puts iSpot.tv in a perfect position to help. Our platform allows marketers to understand all ads, rather than looking at traditional and OTT in separate places. You no longer have to wait three months for a Nielsen rating or to get three different reports from Roku, Hulu, and FuboTV. A marketer can simply log in to iSpot.tv and get a report in real time of all of his/her ads.
Where do you find your inspiration? Business-centric documentaries and short stories. I can read, watch and listen to documentaries and short stories all day, every day. We can learn a lot from the successes and failures of business leaders. When you hear the WeWork story, the RealReal, or Bonobos, how can you not get motivated?
What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? Single-blade razors. Not super high-tech, but life-saving. Perhaps, I am being melodramatic. However, before getbevel.com, I was a walking razor bump. Painful and even more unattractive.
What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? My desk is sparse. Why? Do I really want to reveal why? Two reasons: 1. Reorganizations. I’ve worked at large companies that used reorgs to solve a problem. Being able to put everything in one Bekins moving box made it easier to move floors. The Bekins green logo still causes nightmares. 2. Never get comfortable. You know the old saying: comfort breeds complacency. Your next big competitor is not comfortable being second. Extending your lead over the competition requires hard work and willingness to challenge everything.
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) Time is your most valuable possession and the great equalizer. Be diligent and fastidious about planning your day and managing your day-to-day activities. TeamSnap and Google Calendar are my best friends. The power of time and organization shouldn’t be underestimated. My home life is managed using TeamSnap. It allows me to share my schedule and the kids’ schedules with the nanny (Emily Chambard — I must give her a shoutout! She is amazing with kids.) and the grandparents. TeamSnap’s easy integration with Google Calendar allows me to have my work schedule and personal schedule in one place.
Mac, Windows or Linux? We are a Mac family. Home, work and everywhere in between. But, of course, with Windows PowerPoint on all of the devices.
Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Why is Data not on this list? Data for sure.
Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Time Machine. Wouldn’t it be great to go back in time to be a fly on the wall when JFK, MLK, and Rosa Parks were alive? Not the greatest of times for minorities, but the leaders were powerful and dignified. The unification of all people to fight for what was right was, perhaps, unprecedented. We are in the present, so let’s skip the present and fast-forward to the future. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see if the Jetsons finally came to life? Will we finally have flying cars? We could belly up to the bar with Bezos and Elon on Mars. I have a feeling there will be room and some good stories. Push a button and dinner is served? My favorite, seeing I can’t cook and don’t like to cook.
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … Wait until next year to start a company after iSpot.tv reaches unicorn status. Many of us have worked together before at three or four companies. I have an idea. When the time comes, I will walk down to Sean’s (CEO of iSpot.tv) office and say, “I have an idea … Let’s do it again.”
I once waited in line for … Tickets to a Vanilla Ice concert. Sad but true.
Your role models: My family; my parents, Jerome and Verneice; and my father-in-law, Seddik Belyamani, head of sales and marketing at Boeing during the ’90s and early 2000’s. Growing up, my parents were a little strict and formal. They expected a lot out of me and my two sisters. I suppose I could tell you about the first C I brought home from Jr. High! The statute of limitations surely has passed. Let’s just say that I felt I had no need to study, seeing as I was going to be the next James Worthy. Given that I am slightly under 6 feet, my parents were correct: studying was probably a better option.
Another instrumental role-model is my father-in-law. He pushed me to be well-rounded and not solely focused on technology. Over dinners, we talk about anything: history, politics, technology, and Beethoven’s Fifth. He still does math problems on the backs of napkins with my kids.
Greatest game in history: Fifa 2009 on the Wii. The Wii allowed me to play without worrying about 15 buttons on the controller. The best team to play with? ’08 Man U! Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez. Only nine years ago, yet it already feels like the good ol’ days.
Best gadget ever: The Walkman. Could you imagine taking an album to the gym on your arm?
First computer: My own? Gateway 2000. That box. Wasn’t it awesome?
Current phone: iPhone X. I finally gave up my iPhone 6. All my 10-year-old wanted for Christmas was an iPhone X. “Everyone has one,” he said. So I took advantage of Verizon’s “Buy one, get one for $1” over the holidays. If you know me, you know I love my coupons.
Favorite app: Robinhood. When I was young, my father came upstairs and told me he was instructed by my mother to give me the birds and the bees talk. So he did! He told me, “Always pay yourself first. Max your 401(k) and Dollar Cost Average to minimize risk.” Then he proceeded to hand over my Computershare letter thanking me for joining. At the time, it had two high-profile stocks! K-Mart and Sears. Perhaps my dad wasn’t the best at picking stocks, but he was really good at giving advice. I have taken his version of the birds and the bees to heart. The modern day version of Computershare is Robinhood. Such a great app!
Favorite cause: My wife sent me to drop off a donation at Mary’s Place. I will never forget the day. I didn’t know anything about Mary’s Place. My plan was to drop the bags and leave. I parked illegally in front of their old building in Belltown. I walked in and they needed help with building storage. I sent an email to Rand Fishkin (my boss at the time) to let him know I would be late for work. I spent the next three hours building storage, learning about Mary’s Place, and seeing women and their kids getting compassionate help. Luckily, my car wasn’t ticketed or towed by the city. Ever since, we have donated to Mary’s Place. Amazon Smile makes it easy to donate. Make sure that you add them and donate.
Most important technology of 2019: The Paywall. It will make a comeback. Not only will we be able to pay for applications and services like Facebook, but Facebook and others will pay you for your data.
Most important technology of 2021: Something like Google will be created where you can go to learn about Google.
Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Always forward. Never straight.
LinkedIn: Anthony Skinner