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Business case studies No 227 - 07.09.2018

The world’s first AI driven TV advertising technology

This week’s egtabite features a global breakthrough by Channel 4, which launched the world’s first AI driven TV advertising technology in July - R&D they exclusively previewed at egta’s DigitalNext meeting in 2017.

The innovative ad tech automatically identifies all actions featured in the broadcaster’s content, highlighting valuable contextual advertising opportunities, aptly named Contextual Moments. This makes it possible for the British sales house to place a brand’s ads next to relevant scenes in a linear TV show.

For example, a character in a show might be seen enjoying a cup of tea and this scene may appeal to a tea brand whose ad would then be placed in the following break.

The cutting-edge technology, which is a combination of in-house development and available solutions, offers numerous advantages to advertisers: uplifts in brand recall and purchase intent, a brand-safe environment, real-time contextualisation allowing for smarter media planning and new opportunities for challenger brands.

Contextual advertising for linear TV at scale

The state-of-the-art AI from Channel 4’s Data Science team combines both audio and visual data to identify what is happening on the screen and assess the role of a product in a scene, scoring its strength for advertisers on a scale from 1 to 5. A similar process scores it for “positivity”, depending on how characters may be referring to it.

The Contextual Moments which scored the highest are bundled together. For example – all food moments are grouped together for a supermarket. Every potential advertising opportunity is validated by a human to ensure brand safety. The Contextual Moments with low scores are discarded.

This is a major breakthrough, because prior to this innovation, a food brand would achieve context by placing their campaign around cooking shows, but using this new tech, food brand ads can be inserted into breaks around multiple food-specific "moments’, found in the editorial of other shows, such as a character in a drama baking a cake or a dinner party scene in a comedy.

Context is King

Together with independent market researchers BDRC, Channel 4 ran a lab test to assess the performance of a traditional TV spot compared to the performance of a Contextual Moments TV spot. The test surveyed 2000 people simulating a real TV viewing experience.

Results reveal improved brand performance metrics with uplifts in spontaneous awareness (+34%) as well as positive brand perception (+12%) and purchase intent (+13%). These uplifts were higher than those enjoyed by a traditional TV spot, showing that Contextual Moments targeting supercharges a brand's TV spot.

However the startling figures were with ad recall, the research showed viewers are twice as likely to remember an advert when it is viewed contextually, compared to one placed in a regular TV spot.

Neil Taylor, Lead Data Strategist, Commercial, at Channel 4, admitted that his team could not believe the uplift themselves, so checked the figures and methodology multiple times. But the data was solid. “We realised that context was important but didn’t realise how important,” he declared. “Ad recall doubled across all the brands that we tested.”

Channel 4 also wanted to understand why contextual ad targeting was driving performance so they partnered with the Neuroscience team at Durham University who developed the hypotheses that viewers are twice as likely to remember an ad viewed contextually due to the combined effect of two processes known as ‘semantic priming’ and ‘fluency’.

Both theories state that recently seen content is easier for our brains to process and memorise. For example, when a viewer sees a character from a TV show enjoying tea, their neural network becomes activated; while seeing tea also means the viewer’s fluency for tea (or the ease with which the idea of tea will spring to mind) is heightened.

Both effects help explain why placing an advert near a Contextual Moment makes the memory of the advert easier to form. The Neuroscience team at Durham's early academic work backs up the findings from Channel’s 4 study with BDRC. More details on these hypotheses will be shared soon.

The future of context

Channel 4 plans to make bundles of these nuanced contextual moments available to brands under categories such as food, hot drinks, relationships or mobile phones. Future development categories include fitness, technology, celebration, family and others as they discuss the project with advertisers over the coming months.

Jonathan Allan, Chief Commercial Officer, Channel 4 says: “Our pioneering ad tech provides an exciting opportunity for advertisers to test a global first in linear TV ad targeting which we know delivers strong results. Our ‘Contextual Moments’ trial offers advertisers the ability to buy bundles of relevant advertising within a quality and safe broadcast environment for the first time ever.”

Channel 4 has sought out brands interested in partnering with them and advertising via Contextual Moments. The first spots will be placed live on linear TV in September. Effectiveness results from the live trial will be presented to the industry later this year.

 

COMPANIES

 

RESOURCES

»Channel 4 website - click here.
»PDF presentation - click here.

 

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