Thought Leaders in association withPartners in Crime

Personalising TV - Impossible… Right?

Advertising Agency
London, UK
INFLUENCER: Big Data and smart TVs are paving the way for personalised TV ads, but there are challenges ahead too, says Lee Baring, Head of Broadcast at VCCP

1. Does TV use Big Data?

2. Can we make personalised adverts?

3. Why isn’t all TV programmatic?

The above were all questions raised at this week’s Westminster Forum where VCCP Media CEO Catherine Becker was part of a group of industry experts tasked with answering these difficult questions.

In short the answers are as follows:

1. Yes, loads

2. Of course, we’ve been doing so for a while now

3. Who says it isn’t already?

TV is not only embracing data, it’s a key reason why we are currently enjoying a so-called ‘Golden Age’ of TV, something which is most apparent in TV programming. 

In 2011, Netflix committed to spending in excess of $4 million per episode to snatch away from HBO and AMC the rights for US political drama, House of Cards. Such an investment on just one franchise was unprecedented for Netflix. However, it was a decision based on hard data; data that told Netflix House of Cards would be a runaway success. 

Netflix’s confidence in the success of the show was based on, among many others, the following insights:

• A huge number of Netflix subscribers had ‘enjoyed’ David Fincher’s (Director of the first two episodes of House of Cards) The Social Network

• A vast amount of subscribers had also ‘enjoyed’ the British version of House of Cards

• The number of subscribers who had watched both the British House of Cards series and various David Fincher movies, along with films featuring Kevin Spacey, was considerable

Steve Swasey Former VP of Netflix Corporate Communications said:

“We have a high degree of confidence in [House of Cards] based on the director, the producer and the stars…. We don’t have to spend millions to get people to tune into this. Through our algorithms, we can determine who might be interested in Kevin Spacey or political drama and say to them ‘You might want to watch this.’”

To think what the main UK broadcasters would give for this kind of insight into their viewers’ minds! 

Or perhaps this already exists?

Sky’s recent Marketing Week award submission for their work with Argos would suggest that they are starting to gain a much deeper insight into audience’s viewing habits, allowing them to combine this with sales data to give a deeper accountability for TV advertising across ALL channels that are viewed by the Sky Box. How long will it be before Sky will be able to track viewer’s engagement rates the same way Netflix can? Or is it already happening?

There is indeed already technology in the States (and some in the UK via Samsung) that records the linear use of consumer’s Smart TV: channels, programmes, volume, duration and more. A Smart TV is a device that, like any other, can be linked to an individual person. This enables the data holder to create a much deeper profile for each person within the house. If combined with other forms of data (Experian, Clubcard, Mastercard), a household profile could be created and the Netflix model of viewing analysis to guide not only programming acquisition and schedule creation but ad optimisation, could be in place within the next few years. 

Data is being used right now to deliver ground-breaking advertising. Live Odds for example have become the norm in TV and the emergence of registration panels has enabled the likes of Channel 4 to deliver much more personal advertising on their VOD platform, Coca Cola being a good example.

So, what about Personalised Advertising?

The term “personalised” can mean a number of different things. DFS changing the end of their ad by ITV region to give the viewer the address of their local store is a form of personalisation. Sky’s Adsmart technology has a number of data points to bring together a more personalised/programmatic delivery; contemplating the household’s shopping habits, for example, or determining whether you’re in-market for certain products, could all be carefully placed within the bracket of personalisation. Other slick examples of personalised advertising include Nescafe’s mugs and Mark Wright’s Oykos ads. However, talking to someone directly as Coca Cola have done is yet to be achieved within the traditional landscape, and for good reason.

Firstly, the data isn’t available yet. Secondly, think of how TV is mainly consumed: within groups. How can a personalised ad be served to a group of people? Can it? The challenge is set, but in the meantime, personalisation within TV should just mean more informed, more entertaining and highly relevant advertising.

The group culture is a crucial part of TV advertising though, and not just the family but the wider audience; the 13 million or so who tune into Bake Off or the 7 million(ish) who watch X Factor. Serving to a mass audience programmatically has many a negative consequence. One potential downside is cost per view, another is that a programmatically served ad potentially diminishes the greatest power of TV advertising: mass. Many a marketing theory is based on Share of Voice, Awareness, making a product ubiquitous. If you were to say the phrase “should’ve gone to Specsavers” or “Wassup” or “Be more dog”, the vast majority of people would be aware of how and why such idioms have become part of our general vernacular; in a programmatic world, if you are deemed someone who doesn’t drink lager, or not in the market for the latest mobile or pair of glasses, you might never be served this advertising.

The power of brands being present to the “non-market consumers” still holds a great deal of value. For many FMCG brands, the light buyer is highly sought after. In categories with low brand loyalty, the fact that a product appears to be ubiquitous is the difference between selling and not selling, programmatic by its very nature will struggle to push a brand to this level of awareness. 

In a recent article regarding P&G’s cut in spend of ultra-targeted Facebook advertising, Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix (a company that tests ads for effectiveness and works closely with Facebook) was quoted saying:

“If you could run an ad and reach a million people or run a targeted ad to reach 5,000, you have to have pretty impressive returns on that 5,000 to make it worth it”

That being said, Programmatic, Big Data and Personalisation all have an important role to play in the development of Video consumption. As TV is embraced into the media ecosystem and can be successfully synchronised with other digital media, data will be key to the majority of decisions being made, from which new blockbuster drama will be scheduled by ITV, to how the EPG looks for each user. For example, being able to pair a TV with big data hubs will greatly improve DRTV, though I fear that the issues P&G faced with Facebook will quickly become apparent and the risk of “over-targeting” must be carefully considered.

Personalisation in the Coca Cola sense will be difficult to achieve in a group medium, however developments in technology that are already in place will greatly improve the TV ad experience for consumer and advertiser. Data will enable the broadcaster and the advertiser to be better informed and to hopefully understand the impact of broadcast on their business and not just in the short term but also, and more critically, in the long term.

Will TV ever be fully programmatic in the same way that 60% of online is? I think the answer is no. However, by embracing data and being generally better informed, we can deliver a more relevant and accountable experience to all concerned.