What the Media industry can learn from Sky's personalised TV ads

16 December 2015

Tom Edwards

Tom Edwards

Former Consultant

Most adverts in the world are targeted at a specific audience. When you browse the internet it is likely you will only see adverts you are interested in, but it is only recently that broadcasters have been able to do a similar thing with live TV. This is known as personalised marketing at scale.

Whilst it is fast becoming the newest digital marketing trend, the idea of it is far from new. Target supermarket was able to send out personalised coupons in the early 2000s and found out the hard way about the fine line between offering relevant ads to consumers and appearing intimidating.

Personalised adverts are already used online

In the broadcast media industry, personalised marketing is the ability to reach out to different consumers with different messages – so companies can target particular groups of consumers. YouTube and All 4 have been doing this for a number of years. They are able to show you adverts before and during a program that have been tailored to you. When you sign up to an online service, you often have to submit your age and location. In addition, broadcasters can easily collect data about what you watch on your account and what you view elsewhere with the use of cookies. This, for example, makes it relatively easy for an advertiser to display an ad just to a teenage demographic in London.

Moving personalised content to television

Although it has been shown that this works well for online content, it has been more difficult to implement personalised advertising on television because programs are broadcast live so all consumers watch the same adverts. But this is soon set to change. Broadcasters are to introduce adverts tailored to the individual tastes of viewers using data collected from postcodes and viewing preferences combined with existing customer research.

Sky announced that it is trialling a scheme called AdSmart, where adverts are stored locally on customers’ Sky+HD boxes. The organisation has the ability to transmit these adverts during live TV so, what you see on your TV, will be different to the house next-door watching the same channel. Sky aims to roll out the scheme to viewers next year. More relevant adverts could also be shown during breaks in recorded programs. For example, if a program was recorded at Christmas, the adverts for Boxing Day furniture sales and a snow-covered Disneyland could be replaced with other ads when the program is watched a month later.

This comes at an important time for television advertisers as interest is shifting from traditional TV ads to online video ads. Broadcast advertiser, BrightRoll, says agencies have seen an 88.6% increase in client interest around online video ads in the last three years. The news of Sky's initiative of personalised is therefore likely to be well received by agencies who buy television advertising space.

Keeping consumers at ease

Although the technology for personalised marketing is very new, the idea itself has been around for a number of years. In 2002, as John Appleby mentioned in a previous post, Target supermarket were one of the first organisations to experiment with personalised advertising on a large scale. Despite its success of being able to identify pregnant women based on their buying habits, it discovered that aggressively targeted adverts can make consumers feel uneasy – especially when it correctly predicted that a teenage girl was pregnant before her father knew.

Learning from its mistakes, Target began sending out personalised coupons, interspersed with coupons for unrelated products, to give the perception that they were randomly generated. This is perhaps a lesson that the broadcast industry can learn from to keep customers feeling at ease.

When used in the right way, personalised advertising at scale can be incredibly effective. The benefits are two-fold.

  1. Companies can advertise solely to their target audience’s demographic
  2. Consumers only see adverts for products and services in which they are interested or that they find relevant.

For these reasons, it is likely we will see an increasing amount of personalised content over the coming years and, when used correctly, it will be invaluable to a number businesses.

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