TV Advertising Gets Personal




Recently on OMD Said, I sang the praises of Netflix and their use of their customer data to inform the purchase of the series House of Cards. In a move that changed the way we consume TV, Netflix looked to the preferences of their 44 million subscribers to help then decide on whether to acquire the rights to the award winning series.

Part of what made the exercise a success was the way in which they shot alternate trailers to serve to consumers based on their preference for Netflix titles; as well as each individuals behaviour on the site.  This ensured that the right message was served to the right audience, at the right time. A novel concept indeed.

Just as Netflix changed the game with House of Cards, the recent introduction of AdSmart by Sky UK might have similar implications for broadcast television. AdSmart allows advertisers to tailor the content that households see on Sky+ channels, based upon a range of segmentation criteria.

In its simplest form, AdSmart will eventually allow for personalised ad breaks for every owner of a Sky+ box in Britain. In practice, two households in the same street- watching the same show- could receive unique ad content during the breaks.

Advertisers can target households based on a range of attributes including their age, gender, location and financial standing. Sky hope to roll-out targeting on a postcode level within the next few months. Advertisers can use their own consumer insights, Sky’s knowledge of their subscriber households; as well as third party data to ensure their message reaches the most relevant and engaged audience. By leveraging their knowledge of their subscribers, Sky hope to fundamentally change television advertising in the UK. With TV ad revenues under the microscope, the technology could in fact increase the size of the market. It makes TV advertising more accessible to SME’s, given the option to use location based data to target niche audiences at a lower cost to the business.




What is of significance is that television advertisers can now test creative against a targeted audience and measure the effectiveness of each version. The Sky+ set-top box pulls in multiple campaign creatives, overlaid against data to serve each household the most relevant version of the TVC. Whilst this is commonplace in digital advertising, it is a giant stride forward for TV (albeit long overdue). The ability to test and learn is part of the appeal of advertising online and with AdSmart, Television advertising is trying to follow suit. As with Netflix and their unique trailers, TV advertisers can now serve different versions of their content to a unique audience, based on the preferences/demographic composition of that group.

It has been argued that TV is some way behind digital from the perspective of targeting and measurement, and that AdSmart should be viewed as a basic requirement as opposed to a game changer. That would be taking a hard line and we should instead embrace the fact that Sky is looking to develop the concept of the set top box as a dynamic ad server. Through this technology, TV advertisers will now have greater control over who sees their ad, where and when they see it, and how often.

The rapid development of Smart TV’s also has implications for how content will be created in the not too distant future. Search data on these devices could become intrinsic to understanding the TV viewing audience.  How long before advertisers produce multiple versions of a TVC (to run through AdSmart) based upon organic and paid search data?  Should the language that consumers use in online environments inform the creative for a television spot aimed at a specific household? That could go some way to ensuring that the right message, reached the right audience at the right time. A novel concept indeed.

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