Squakwa Torture

11 02 2014

I’d heard of Squakwa but it’s CEO, Sanjit Atwal, had been a stranger until last weeks’ passionate defence of football stats in the guardian. It wasn’t the most auspicious of first virtual encounters; to say I disagreed vehemently with his horseshit outlook – you can only understand football if you look at my statistics – would be the personification of understatement.

As a reasonable man I often questions my actions and this occasion is no different. Did I jump to the wrong conclusions, or allow myself to develop the wrong impression, about Mr. Atwal? I decided to give him a second chance, he might have something to say after all.

When I typed his name in to Google I found quite a few links.  The first one I clicked took me to this article ;

Engagement Beyond the Match: Q&A With Squawka’s Sanjit Atwal

Back in September, second-screen football companion app Squawka made headlines when BBH became a major shareholder in the nascent platform. With its real-time data visualizations for fans, the app has partnered up with brands like Gillette and Dominos among others. Prior to his presentation at AdMonsters Screens on Monday, 19 November in London, we caught up with Squawka CEO and Founder Sanjit Atwal to hear about the BBH deal, the nuances of consumer engagement and native advertising on the platform.

I’m a little confused, your site is supposed to be about football stats, but I don’t see any info on touchdowns, interceptions, sacks… This is all about SOCCER! All kidding aside, does Squawka plan to expand to other sports?

Absolutely! Our first goal is to ensure we have delivered soccer (cough *football*) fans the most amazing second screen experience possible. We have built our platform in a manner that would make sense for another sport to be plugged and we have a pretty good idea of the next sports that we will give a Squawka makeover to!

How did your partnership with agency BBH come about? Can you go into some detail about what it means for advertising with Squawka (not exclusivity!)? What will you get out of working with Zag, the ventures arm?

We are lucky to have had a pretty strong media background before starting Squawka and word soon got out that we were open to taking on partners that would compliment our own offering and skill set. BBH, like nearly all agencies at the moment, are looking for ways in which their clients can engage meaningfully with users across second screen and sports is obviously a hot sector for campaigns. Advertising with Squawka will continue as it has been – if anything we have had greater interest from the leading agencies now BBH are involved!

With the ventures arm of BBH (Zag) we are receiving valuable corporate level support – something technology startups rarely have access to pre-Series A investment.

So Squawka ‘engaged’ 10,000 football fans during Euro 2012 – since you guys pride yourself on stats, what kind of cool engagement metrics can you share? What are you highlighting with advertisers?

Well there is a lot to talk about but the ones I found most fascinating were analysing user behaviour during games. for example, we saw some games in which we had an average engagement time of 42 minutes!

The opportunity for a brand to have a meaningful conversation in this period is obvious. A great example is Dominos who saw massive 2.5% click through rates by changing the call to action to co-incide with the events on the pitch. We have now grown and are engaging many thousands of football fans a day (and growing rapidly) and are looking forward to deploying more campaigns as we approach Christmas.

Sadly, being an American I can’t access the Gillette Football Club channel on YouTube, but can you explain how Squawka is involved? How did your participation come about? Are other advertisers going to get involved?

Our role in the Gillette Football Club came about through out close relationships with agencies Mediacom and subsequently Proximity BBDO Paris. We were ‘sent’ to Paris to discuss a new Proctor & Gamble initiative in which the Gillette brand could get closer to football fans via YouTube. We were asked how stats & visualisations could be included and came up with concept to use our deep data intelligence to link to player videos. The project is in beta but has shown signs of a roadmap other advertisers could follow.

You know, native advertising is, like, a huge thing right now in the U.S.; it would seem Squawka’s platform could offer some interesting perks in that department. Have you or are you going to run any cool campaigns that take advantage of Squawka’s unique offering?

We are all about cool campaigns! We have some uber-cool briefs out there with agencies in which we really expand the current thinking behind second-screen advertising. I won’t give too much away but the industry has only just scratched the surface of what this channel can offer! In short, it’s all very exciting….!

OPS The age of multi-screen is upon us. Whether you’re interested in mobile, tablet, IPTV, goggles, or other enabled devices, learn cutting edge techniques and best practices from industry leaders and get involved in discussions with expert panelists only at AdMonsters Screens, Nov. 19 in London.

Could the following indicate our man’s true feelings?

“……..are looking for ways in which their clients can engage meaningfully with users across second screen and sports is obviously a hot sector for campaigns. Advertising with Squawka will continue as it has been – if anything we have had greater interest from the leading agencies now BBH are involved!”

I had a closer look at the Admasters site. This is what they do;

“Using a tested and refined methodology, we identify and bridge an organization’s gaps between strategy, process and technology. The result allows us to analyse product strategy, build and integrate technology infrastructures, develop and install best practices, and architect efficient processes for companies across the digital media landscape.

Current solutions we deliver

  •  The following includes just some on the solutions we are providing for clients:
  • Leveraging audience data for improved ad sales, and channel strategies
  • Migrating, implementing and integrating ad server and order management systems
  • Redesigning ad operations workflows to increase efficiency and decrease transaction costs
  • Developing strategies to manage inventory, increase traffic and optimize yield
  • Designing enterprise technology architectures and roadmaps
  • Creating unified reporting and dashboards for better insight and management decisions
  • Develop strategies for leveraging ad exchanges, DSPs, SSPs and RTB”

I could see where this was heading. Mind you, let’s not be too hasty.

The second link took me to a rather impenetrable article;

Scaled Digital Strategy Is Inherently Product (and User) Led

As we get closer to the adoption of web 3.0 you will start to see more use of the term ‘Big Data’. Like all de-jour terms ‘Big Data’ will mean different things to different people but, for the purposes of this article, we will focus specifically on e-commerce trends and the problems facing mature advertisers looking to grow their online business.

Anyone with experience of the affiliate market from an advertiser/agency/network-side will be have their own ideas on how to get more sales through the channel. Having worked on over 50 affiliate programmes myself I know that anywhere from 50-90% of the sales will be coming from around 20 or so partners. All great news if you’re hitting your targets. But what happens when your growth starts to slow? And it will slow. It’s as inevitable as Google updating their algorithm or eating too much over Christmas. Be it because of seasonality or consumer trends or just low traffic, online sales through affiliate do at some point plateau. So, where then do you go then to achieve the CEO’s 25% year on year growth targets without making half your staff redundant…? Assuming you like the guys you’ve hired, there are three other options:

•Work to grow the existing sales you are getting from the top 20 (or so..) partners

•Look to grow the other hundred (or so…) partners on the programme (otherwise known as the long-tail)

•Recruit new partners onto the programme

Of course, any affiliate marketing professional can tell you that all of the above avenues should be engaged. However, each has its own pro’s and con’s.

At Digital Animal we have been working to solve this problem whilst addressing the core issue at hand – users are the ones that make up the sales numbers…not affiliates. And users aren’t buying a brand. They are buying products that they need in their lives for whatever reason.

Digital Animal technology offers users the opportunity to recommend a product to a friend through 335 different types of social media and to be rewarded for the action (be it a sale, lead, click or sign-up). Essentially this means we are allowing brands to build a new eco-system of ‘micro-affiliates’.

Why does this work? Well, users are 90% more likely to purchase a product online if it has been recommended to them by a friend (Econsultancy Internet Compendium 2009). And it is working…from each friend recommendation, we are seeing eleven new users returning to the advertiser’s site.

By using product data feeds to feature the product information and drive user recommendations through shared online relationships, advertisers can now extend their virtual sales teams beyond traditional publishing sites to the end-users themselves.

Pretty much all innovative performance strategies I have seen over the last 12 months have been feed-driven. It’s a fundamental growth strategy and essential to scaling your digital strategy through many channels.

It is unfortunate then, that still so many advertisers have feeds that fall below the necessary quality or, as I have seen with more than one world-renowned brand, no feed at all. It’s like doing the weekly shop without a trolly. You’ll be able to walk away with a few items…but you could have had the whole isle. I’ll tell you what. You keep your feed up-to-date and I’ll stop using the term ‘de-jour’ in my articles…

About the author:

Sanjit is Managing Partner at investment accelerator Combusta, Commercial Director at Digital Animal, Founder of Social Media consultancy Eagle5Fox7 and a lecturer for the Digital Marketing Institute.

Originally from a creative background, Sanjit has worked across film, press, magazines, radio, local government, digital, mobile and social media in a variety of commercial and strategic senior leadership positions. Having created and managed digital strategy for some of the biggest name advertisers in the world, Sanjit has a wealth of experience in monetization techniques and user trends. A self-confessed technology and social media junky, Sanjit is passionate about creating and advising the most cutting edge of start-up projects. Clients Sanjit has worked with include: Dell, British Gas, lastminute.com, Apple, RBS, Nike, Expedia, Hotels.com, Mothercare, Kelkoo, eBookers, Thomas Cook, Nectar, Groupon, Natwest, Hertz, Tesco.com.

See more at: www.fusepump.com/blog/guest-blog-sanjit-…sthash.I3dO42Ai.dpuf

You could get lost in the article’s technical terms – “second screen experience”, “ monetization techniques and user trends”, “web 3.0”, ”Big Data” – but with a little time and patience you would notice that parts of the article are a possible indication of our man’s approach;

“Well, users are 90% more likely to purchase a product online if it has been recommended to them by a friend (Econsultancy Internet Compendium 2009). And it is working…from each friend recommendation, we are seeing eleven new users returning to the advertiser’s site.”

The knowledge that our man appears to be rather too interested in parting people from their money only satisfied my baser instincts. I was profoundly disappointed to find that another person seems to have succumbed to the dark side of market capitalism.

There were also still too many answered questions to feel spiritually satisfied. What the hell is a “second screen experience”? Who the hell are BBH? I had to find out more.

With a little more research my thrist for knowledge was slaked. “The second screen refers to this idea;

Defining and Categorizing the Second Screen

It’s hard enough to identify what devices are considered primary screens these days, much less what a second screen looks like. And while I have tackled primary, secondary, and tertiary screen nomenclature in previous articles, I won’t get into whether a smartphone in front of a tablet is technically a second screen. For our collective sanity in this review, the primary screen is a TV and the secondary screen is a smartphone, tablet, or touchscreen.

A secondary screen can be a distracter pulling you away from the primary screen. An example of a distracter would be watching “Downton Abbey” when your phone buzzes and you read and respond to a work email for 2 minutes. Or the secondary screen can be an attractor providing supporting and relevant information that maintains engagement with the primary screen. An example of an attractor would be watching “Top Chef” while chatting with the stars and your friends in the Zeebox app on your tablet. In years to come, I’m sure we will look back with quaint fondness on the days when we only had two screens in our living room or office.

While the definition of a second screen has been simplified, it still leaves us with a variety of categories for attractors. Most of the attractors that we will look at in this review fall into three columns: social networks, second-screen apps, and companion content. Social networks have been used to support watching TV from their inception, and it’s no surprise that both Twitter and Facebook are popular attractors for interacting while viewing. The sheer size of both these platforms makes them attractive engagement tools, but that may also be their greatest weakness. It’s hard to maintain focus on just one viewing experience with all the noise on these networks. The need for more focused social networks just for viewing TV led to most of the second-screen apps we see now. Apps such as Zeebox and IntoNow from Yahoo! are allowing individuals to discover, interact, socialize, and share from their mobile devices while watching TV. And finally, we have companion content being developed by media companies, broadcasters, and networks to cash in on the second-screen gold rush. Some of the recent tools that have been developed in-house or created in white label partnerships represent the biggest names in the industry. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has launched Disney Second Screen, movie-specific iPad apps that sync up and provide additional content while you are watching a film on your TV. CBS has put out CBS Connect, its own tablet app that features interactive chat, audio syncing with live or taped content, and access to behind-the-scenes features to support its most popular shows. With the popularity of third-party social networks and apps, it’s certain we will see more companies creating their own stand-alone content to attract and engage audiences.

The “second screen experience” isn’t  isn’t just passive experience, it can deprive suckers of money;

Who’s Missing a Big Opportunity on the Second Screen?

Will 2013 be the year of social TV, when this growing sector hits the mainstream? Was 2012? There has certainly be a lot of industry activity from consolidations, acquisitions and new product launches.

Even over just the last months, GetGlue’s been acquired by Viggle, Zeebox reached US shores and already’s seeing significant number of downloads, networks like CBS have rolled out new companion experiences, Dish launched its app and there are lots of others seeking to become the breakthrough app and ‘go to’ destination.

There’s clearly a lot of dollars chasing the growing second screen audience.  Numerous studies have shown that TV viewers are engaged on their devices, be they laptops, tablets or smartphones.  Which of all the apps now in the marketplace will become the social TV ‘killer app’ is still to be determined – and in fact that app (or likely apps) may not even exist yet.

Today, big audiences are online and watching TV simultaneously; there’s a tremendous opportunity for brands to reach those viewers in this emerging cross-platform environment.  Whoever captures them stands to win big.

However, in many ways, the second screen audience seems to be quite dispersed across all of the varied companion experiences, and hence difficult to reach.  But one opportunity that does not seem to be pursued aggressively is that of the large audiences on ‘mainstream’ online media sites already.  Many of the highly trafficked sites on the web have this co-viewing audience now, perhaps without even realizing it.

What they’re not doing however is providing a rich, engaging companion experience for these viewers.  While not necessarily applicable to all shows and all sites, it’s not difficult to imagine how a lot of these high volume sites could easily keep their users more engaged and on their site longer by offering them content related to the show they’re likely already watching.

Sports sites hosting live content related to Monday Night Football, teen-oriented sites delivering live chats around Glee, entertainment sites discussing American Idol or The Voice during the show are all ripe but for the most part missed opportunities.  Most of these destinations have huge online audiences that are multi-tasking between TV and their site.  Why not provide companion content to focus these viewers and engage them – on their own site – with what’s happening right in front of them in their living room.  As viewers seek more social TV type experiences, these destinations can keep these viewers or lose them to others.

There are numerous platforms and ‘white label’ providers that the ‘big’ sites’ could use to embed such TV companion content into their own properties.  They say Willie Sutton robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.”  The online giants should look to their own sites because that’s where the co-viewing audience – and the social TV money – is.”

Needless to say Murdoch’s television channel has bought in to  the “second screen experience” concept;

Our breath-taking second screen features include a customisable split screen enabling you to customise the mix of video that you’re watching, Sky Sports 360 – enabling you to re-watch match Champions League highlights from up to 20 different angles, player touch maps and team average formations for Premier League matches – putting Gary Neville’s Monday Night Football touchscreen analysis tools in your hands – and many more!

It seems as though everything’s just dandy with the “second screen experience”!!!!!;

It will also include match-day stats such as the number of shots on and off-target, yellow and red cards and passing success rates.

In terms of social media the Football Match Centre will include a curated Twitter feed with aggregated fan commentary.

“We know that Sky Sports customers want the latest stats and facts about their favourite teams and players, and the new Football Match Centre within the Sky Sports for iPad app does just that,” David Gibbs, Director of Sky Sports Digital Media said.

“With over half a million downloads since launch, we hope that the addition of a football second screen experience to the iPad app will continue to excite fans, providing an intuitive and innovative way to follow the match included as part of their Sky Sports subscription.

“The update builds on the launch of the Formula One and Masters second screen experiences which add more depth to a viewer’s enjoyment of our linear channels,” Gibbs added.”

The “second screen experience” is so wonderful it also includes “The Banter”, or “aggregated fan commentary” as they call it. The sad thing is that they claim they’re only responding to customer demand. Yeah it’s all about the choice and to hell with the direction of your money, who cares where it goes!!!!

As for BBH, they’re an advertising agency called Bartle Bogle Hegarty;

Sports app Squawka brings on ad agency BBH as shareholder

London-based Squawka, the maker of  sports companion apps, has secured a partnership with ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty in return for a share of the business.

The deal will give Squawka access to BBH offices globally and Zag, the ventures division of BBH, will help the Squawka management team with marketing, strategy and business operations. The financial aspects of the deal and share purchase have not been disclosed.

With offices around the world, BBH, whose client base includes Audi, Barclays, British Airways, Google, Johnnie Walker, Virgin Media and others, recently announced that they were to become wholly owned by Publicis Groupe – one of the world’s largest advertising and media groups.

That’s not a bad organisation to leverage your marketing management.

Squawka launched in public beta in June this year and has already attracted the eye of advertisers including Gillette, Domino’s and Paddy Power. It’s a web-based second screen experience for viewers of live televised sport.

Fans can look at real-time statistics on the matches and players they are watching, and this information fuels the chat and banter between fans on Squawka’s embedded social platform.

Squawka engaged more than 10,000 football fans during Euro 2012. With that many eyeballs on screens for the service, there’s little question as to why the company is a magnet for big players in advertising.

In August Squawka announced that it is to provide real-time data visualisation for the forthcoming English Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A seasons.

Using Squawka, users can compare teams and players in real time, looking at dozens of different match actions. Using more than 2.9 million possible on-pitch actions, Squawka’s live Player Performance Score can be used to compare the performance of players and teams.

As a web app, the service works on desktop and tablet devices and the company says that native mobile apps are on the way.

Squawka also provide stats and data visualisations for the recently announced Gillette Football Club, a major new partnership between Proctor & Gamble and Google who together have launched a dedicated football channel on YouTube.”

How lovely! Everything’s just great;

Sanjit Atwal, co-founder and CEO of Squawka, commented; “This partnership represents an important moment for everyone at Squawka and for our mission to deliver football fans a unique second-screen experience. The BBH team have not only shown a desire to drive Squawka forward today – but also a clear vision of how Squawka can be developed globally over the next two years. We are looking forward to driving the business forward together.”

Neil Munn, COO of BBH and CEO of Zag, added: “BBH only looks to partner with consumer tech businesses that can deliver outstanding success. Squawka is just such a business – as it offers something really special within the world of social TV and second screen companion apps. We think Squawka’s unique stats are worth consuming and they are worth sharing. We predict a lot of football fans will feel the same way and this platform will become a popular part of match days.”

Let’s stop awhile and consider what we’ve learned. Let’s see if I can get things in the right order;

1. Atwal wants people to love football stats.

2. Atwal is the co-founder and CEO of a “company”, Squawka, that provides football stats in brightly coloured diagrams.

3. During Euro 2012 it is claimed that Squawka ‘engaged’ 10,000 football fans. During Euro 2012 Atwal became fascinated with analysing user behaviour during games. He discovered that some games when they had “an average engagement time of 42 minutes!”

4. Atwal describes this sort of engagement time as an “obvious opportunity” for a brand to have “a meaningful conversation” and certainly looks forward to “engaging many thousands of football fans a day (and growing rapidly) and are looking forward to deploying more campaigns”.

5. Atwal states that Squawka’s mission is to “deliver football fans a unique second-screen experience.” and that they’re “all about cool campaigns” with “uber-cool briefs” in which they “really expand the current thinking behind second-screen advertising.”

6. Squawka signed a deal with one of the world’s largest advertising and media groups, BBH, that “will give Squawka access to BBH offices globally”

7. Atwal seems to view internet users as potential customers;

“……..At Digital Animal we have been working to solve this problem (Hitting sales targets) whilst addressing the core issue at hand – users are the ones that make up the sales numbers…not affiliates. And users aren’t buying a brand. They are buying products that they need in their lives for whatever reason……”

“……..Well, users are 90% more likely to purchase a product online if it has been recommended to them by a friend (Econsultancy Internet Compendium 2009). And it is working…from each friend recommendation, we are seeing eleven new users returning to the advertiser’s site……..”

I when I worked this out I and became even angrier than I already was.

On Friday I was only angry at him because he was a false prophet that wanted to remove the joy from something I care about, now it seems that market capitalism is only the motivation for his zealotry. He seems to be nothing more than a smooth-talking salesman fuelled by shameless cynicism.

Not only does he hopes to use people like me to make a killing, he’s taken something that people like me care about polluted it a little more. My first instinct was correct; he is a snake oil salesman.

It’s enough to make you despair.

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20 02 2014
On analytics, or; How to spot an elephant in a room. | Football and That

[…] following the excellent Llandudno Jet Set will have missed out on the recent and continuing takedown of Squawka, the website and app that gives you ‘stats worth sharing’, so you can have ‘informed […]

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