Q&A: How SXSW Used SpringServe’s Inventory Router to Curate Ad Delivery

Magnite Team

August 26, 2022 | 4 min read

As premier content platforms expand to OTT environments, media planners are seeking better ways to streamline ad delivery while maintaining quality control. 

This was the case during SXSW 2022, where event producers used their OTT app, SXSW TV, to draw international audiences and give registrants the option of watching content anywhere, anytime. SXSW also wanted to extend advertising to OTT and provide sponsors with bespoke targeting related to programming during the conference. SpringServe’s Inventory Router helped SXSW’s team enjoy maximum control over their ad delivery while saving time and energy in the manual editing of ad spots. 

We caught up with Marshall Dungan, senior producer at SXSW’s Commercial Content department, to discuss how SXSW used SpringServe’s Inventory Router to reinvent ad delivery on their app. 

Tell us about the vision behind the SXSW TV app. 

Our main goal for the SXSW TV app was to allow our registrants to watch content on any screen, anywhere. We have an ever-growing international audience, and we needed to facilitate access for the people who couldn’t be there in person. Additionally, we hoped to provide an app for people to explore and discover SXSW content from the current event and previous years. Something that could grow into not just a content library, but a curated look at art, culture, and thought leadership from each year.

What problems did SXSW have in the past with ad delivery on the app? What extra steps did you have to take?

When we first began working in OTT, ad delivery was done “the old-fashioned way,” with the ads permanently added to each VOD, and custom ad breaks had to be made, ingested, and played out for linear channels. Every individual ad spot had to be pre-planned to avoid any advertising conflicts and ensure everyone got their allocated plays. And cutting ad breaks meant a considerable amount of work for our editors, who ultimately had to render multiple versions of the same piece of content with and without ads. Beyond the time constraint there, this added significantly to our storage needs.

How did SXSW use SpringServe’s Inventory Router feature to streamline ad delivery on the app? What were the benefits? 

Based on the sponsorship level, some of our sponsors need to be matched with certain types of content — our Conference sponsors have to be seen on Conference content, etc.  By using macros to grab tags from our CDN assets, Inventory Router allowed us to structure our OTT ad serves along the same parameters we had for our sponsors in real life, maintaining the intended brand alignment. And because it’s all part of the SpringServe platform, we could be agile and make changes without requiring additional work beyond a few clicks. We were able to specify which brands were paired with content types, and if we wanted to be more granular, we could. The platform gave us a multitude of options to achieve our goal.

What are SXSW’s favorite tools to use within the Inventory Router feature?

We were really pleased with what the macros enabled for us. Because we could pull CDN metadata upon each ad call, we gathered crucial information to build routers with refined specifications.

Frequency capping was also a big plus for us. Knowing that our users watch multiple pieces of content, we wanted to ensure our brands’ visibility didn’t come at the cost of the user experience.

What are SXSW’s plans for using Inventory Router in the future? 

Our goal is to provide our sponsors with the same or greater value from their digital assets as they see physically at our event. We are looking at ways to utilize more asset data to add complexity to the routers. And we also plan to deploy them in our linear channels to provide that same experience when viewing live on SXSW TV.

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