Channel 4’s Head of Data Talks Mobile Transformation

LOW Sanjeevan_Bala-05.previewSanjeevan Bala’s role at Channel 4, working as head of data planning and analytics, has only been in existence for two years. But the exec has been set the rather daunting task of managing the broadcaster’s ‘transformation’, using data to deliver change in areas as broad as sales, CRM, commissioning and marketing.

In 2012, less than five per cent of 4oD viewing was done on mobile. Now just under 25 per cent is. Bala said that the organisation expects connected device viewing to grow to two-thirds by 2020. “For us as a business, we’ve gone from having a broadcast relationship with the viewer, a one-way relationship, to having a very direct relationship with our audience,” he said.
It is this increasingly multiscreen relationship, and product launches like cross-platform ‘pause and play’, that have already encouraged more than 9m people to signup to 4oD, including one in three 16 to 24s. 75 per cent of its users agree to share personal data like their postcode, enabling Channel 4 to gather rich insights and create more sophisticated ways to target consumers.

Data doubles brand CTR
The company used its annual Upfront advertising event last week to launch a new data-driven product for 4oD that enables advertisers to target in the same way as they can on TV, using age, gender and socioeconomic data. Trialling the product with B&Q, Unilver, Microsoft, Bulmers, Nokia, McDonalds and O2, CTR grew by 109 per cent across the board, and even tripled for Nokia when they refined their metrics.

Bala says that mobile is enabling the company to be even more innovative with ad formats, using ‘ad selectors’ so people can personalise their viewing experience and the ‘sync to screen’ 4Now tablet app, where ads synchronise with TV spots. Its next set of ad products for 2014 will be interest-based, he said, then they will be getting into intent advertising.

No to banners, yes to RTB?
The company shies away from banners on its apps, in favour of pre-roll and mid-roll video ads, which Bala says achieve much better cut-through than straight display. The broadcaster it still undertaking multi-varient testing of different combinations of ads to ensure they deliver the best experience for consumers. “We can deliver targeted campaigns in near-real-time but from a digital strategy perspective, we are looking at efficiencies and programmatic selling as a path to go down longer term,” he said. The organisation, he added, is in the luxurious position of having more demand than inventory.

In terms of its own impact, Channel 4 is working with Mass Relevance to access and understand Facebook chatter around its linear programming. But Bala is keen for this to go even further. “How useful is it to have a direct relationship with our viewers but not be able to connect social profiles to that data?” he said. “We’re still working out how we bring it all together, still joining up those dots, but we also have to ask ‘what is the compelling consumer proposition?’”

Ads for the public good
The company launched a Viewer Promise campaign last year fronted by Alan Carr to explain why and how Channel 4 would be using their data. Bala said the broadcaster’s brand has trust equity that they can’t compromise.

“We know that viewers come from the BBC and Neflix, both of which are ad-free experiences, and we have to consider what that means for us and how it might affect our viewers’ behaviour. But we are a not-for-profit and we have to make sure that viewers know that all of the revenue generated from advertising goes back into content,” he said.

Bala highlights the organisation’s latest marketing campaign ‘Born Risky’, that seeks to highlight Channel 4’s unique position as a publicly-owned, commercially-funded broacaster; a role which sees it using data to transform its business and push ever-smarter ads to consumers wherever they are watching, all in the name of championing alternative voices and going where others won’t.

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