Using audience data to breathe new life into TV advertising

Netflix: House of CardsTraditionally, TV data such as audience figures has been collected through set top-based research panels, and used as trading currency by the whole advertising industry. However, the advent of digital, cable TV and on-demand platforms, coupled with changing viewing habits, mean broadcasting companies are increasingly mining their own data and are using it to exponentially add value to TV advertising.

The explosion of channels has inevitably led to audience fragmentation. In theory, this should offer brands and broadcasters the opportunity to understand what people are viewing and how they are viewing it; perhaps even going so far as to see how they are acting on it. It certainly creates a number of opportunities to exploit. Both brand and broadcaster can use this data to target smaller, more distinct groups with specific interests, opening up opportunities for addressable advertising. While the lines are yet to be fully drawn yet, these new data owners can ensure better connections are made, enabling brands to achieve improved results through TV advertising and creating absolute relevance to the individual viewer.

In my view there are four areas of emerging opportunity amid this deluge of TV data:

For media owners and the industry at large, the improved relevance of ads to the audience will make campaigns more effective. In turn, this will reinvigorate TV advertising’s value and popularity, helping TV to reclaim budgets from other media.

TV data owners, on the other hand, have the chance to enhance or replace their traditional panel research. Set-top boxes from digital TV providers create the opportunity to passively collect, then analyse and sell on, audience data.

Virgin Media and Sky are already investigating the benefits their data can bring to addressable advertising. Virgin Media has around 4 million customers and Sky has its own measurement panel of set-top box data in 500,000 homes.

With the potential to provide increasingly dynamic (non-linear) advertising, this data will be more relevant, detailed and genuinely representative than current offerings.

In contrast, brands have an opportunity to deliver targeted ads by promoting the significant benefits of addressable advertising.

Brands are already becoming increasingly intelligent at tracking individual customer behaviour across multiple channels. They now have the potential to include live TV to rival the more traditional and digital advertising channels. One significant opportunity is to hone targeted advertising on TV with the right message at the right time, based on individual consumer preferences and behaviour.

Consumer trust, meanwhile, is inextricably linked with data use and TV is no different. This actually represents another opportunity for brands. It is imperative for every contemporary brand to ensure they view data as real people, giving no individual a reason to mistrust them. Therefore, gaining and keeping consumer trust is critical, and delivering a connected experience and joined-up, integrated conversation is one significant step in that process.

Finally, broadcasters can use data to intelligently recommend programmes to customers based on their profile, and can even feed advertising data back into programme scheduling. Creating new content based on consumer preferences alongside viewing history is already being pioneered. Netflix, the disruptive video streaming company, is transforming the way TV is not just consumed, but also created. Take House of Cards (pictured); this original content was only commissioned because of the insight, such as behavioural propensities, provided by Netflix’s own data. In other words, Netflix ‘knows what people want before they do’ and can move beyond simple recommendations.

With these expanding opportunities within the TV arena, the most important element must not be forgotten: the individual consumer should ultimately benefit from these changes.  Receiving targeted ads that are now increasingly relevant and useful provides a significantly better viewing experience. Ads served up are no longer irrelevant, ignorable or irritating, which is a perfect riposte to viewers’ ever-growing demands for more personalised communications.

Laura Hilliard is Sales Program Manager at Acxiom.