Exclusive: The most social commercials and brands on TV

By Natan Edelsburg Comment

Social TV data company Bluefin Labs made a bold move in the social TV space by launching a version of their analytics geared towards brands back in April. A big trend we’ve seen this past year has been the consistent appearance of major brands investing in and experimenting with social TV. Boston and New York based Bluefin Labs has provided Lost Remote exclusively with their “Social TV Brand-scape,” a detailed look at the most social brands, TV commercials and sponsorships in the first half of 2012.

Click for a larger view, and scroll below for analysis and an interview with Bluefin’s Tom Thai:

The most social brand (based on the number of social media comments) goes to Apple, a brand that’s long invested in TV but not really in a social strategy. Sundrop Soda is in the lead for both commercial and sponsorship in large part due to their integration with the Billboard Music Awards. Anheuser-Busch wins for the Superbowl, Pepsi for the Grammys and J.C. Penney for the Oscars. The analysis also includes the most social industry sectors and brands who have aired the most commercials.

We also spoke with Bluefin’s VP of Business Development and Marketing Tom Thai about their impressive data business.

Lost Remote: How do you use data centers? How does the encoding, programming of the data you use work? Where do you license the video from?

Tom Thai: You’ve actually touched on one of the key differentiators between Bluefin Labs and other social TV analytics companies. A basic way to analyze social TV is to look only at the social media data, Twitter, Facebook, etc. But using the basic method, you don’t know essential things about the TV world, such as (for example) “When did that Weight Watchers commercial air on TV?”, “Which networks did the commercial air on?”, and “What were people Tweeting about when they reacted to the Charles Barkley Weight Watchers commercial vs. the Jennifer Hudson Weight Watchers commercial?”

Since we wanted to go beyond the basic approach, we had to build out specialized hardware and software to enable that. This is where the data center comes in. We operate satellite dishes that sit on the roof of an enterprise data center. We have a partnership with DIRECTV that gives us access to satellite feeds of linear TV. So think of this as a giant DVR that’s working 24×7.

LR: How does Bluefin capture commercial video and then compare it to social?

Thai: That’s the specialized software part. Getting a 24×7 feed of the TV world is just the start. In order to recognize all the commercials on TV, we needed to write specialized video fingerprinting and “ad detection” algorithms. (Or have humans watch TV 24×7 across all TV networks and manually make note of the commercials that run. Obviously, that’s not scalable.)

The video fingerprinting and ad detection software is an extension of the work that Bluefin Labs co-founders Deb Roy and Michael Fleischman did at the MIT Media Lab. At Bluefin Labs, we’ve been working on and improving this technology since 2008, when Deb and Michael started the company.

Once we know when and where commercials run on TV, matching TV up to social media is just a matter of automated semantic and temporal analysis.

LR: Any examples of brands you’re working with?

Thai: Sure, some that I can mention publicly include Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, and Mars. We can’t talk about the others publicly, but we have brand clients spanning various industries, including Retail, Entertainment, Financial Services, and CPG.

LR: Anything else?

To make all of this theoretical stuff more concrete, we put together a Social TV Brand-scape poster that covers data for the first half of 2012. The poster includes info on which brands have commercials that drive the most social buzz, which brands air the most commercials on TV, and more.