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Virgin Media has highlighted big screen VOD (meaning VOD on the living room TV) and content discovery as the two key components in its next-generation TV advertising strategy. The company will introduce data-based targeted advertising on a commercial basis in the early part of 2012 and it will be working with third-parties like Experian to integrate third-party data to help inform advertising campaign decisions.
“We have a wealth of data about our customers and, respecting privacy issues, that can be applied in targeting,” Mark Brandon, Commercial Director at VMDS for Virgin Media, added. “We are ready for the data targeting opportunity and I believe that the application of offline data to targeting tools will be a success.”
Virgin Media exceeded its 2011 target for VOD usage by October, when it recorded over 1.1 billion views. Of its 3.1 million television customers, 2.5 million now access VOD on a regular basis. Brandon says this success is explained by the availability of catch-up TV content from the major terrestrial broadcasters and Pay TV channels, pointing out: “That is where the market is and that is where the eyeballs are.”
Speaking at the Future TV Advertising Forum in December, he made it clear that the company wants a constructive partnership with content providers. “We have a fundamental relationship with content providers and broadcasters. They are our customers,” he said. “Sometimes people like to characterize the evolving market as a battle for supremacy but that is utter nonsense. We both need to live with each other.”
The VOD advertising can be delivered to all 3.1 million TV customers, which means those using the existing Liberate middleware platform plus the growing number of customers using the TiVo platform and DVR, which was available in 220,000 homes at the last count in October.
The second part of the next-generation advertising strategy is to leverage the content discovery capabilities of TiVo, which includes connecting viewers with branded content (whether pushing content to them, or pulling them towards content). Over the last few months, the cable operator has been running a range of trials with some major brand advertisers to prove this model.
For Blackberry, which has invested in music content to target a young audience, this meant promoting content through the part of the user interface known as the ‘discovery bar’, described by Brandon as one of the primary ways Virgin Media drives people to content. “That leads them to a content collection that is lightly branded, which we think is the best way to approach this. It has been a highly successful trial,” he reveals.
The company has also worked with uSwitch, a comparison website that helps consumers find the best supplier for services like gas, electricity, broadband and mobile phones. “Their content is not entertainment but it is all about energy saving tips and helping consumers navigate through a change of energy supplier,” Brandon explains. “This is a great example of an advertiser who does not have classic entertainment-based content but offers utility content. So the idea that you cannot have a branded content campaign unless it is entertainment content is not true.”
Virgin Media has also been working with Honda, whose ongoing theme is its innovation. For this campaign the TiVo platform linked viewers to a YouTube video asset. “We showed in the trial that we can link through to YouTube assets, push audiences to content collections and drive an audience to specific advertising funded applications,” Brandon confirmed.
We will have more coverage from the Future TV Advertising Forum in early January. Meanwhile, here are our stories from this conference so far: