ITV will pilot its automated contextual targeting solution – activated via its programmatic platform Planet V – beginning this quarter. The addressable solution uses AI technology and machine learning to scan metadata in content, so as to create advertising opportunities in spots adjacent to moods, moments, or objects in the broadcaster’s programming.
Rhys McLachlan, Director of Advanced Advertising at ITV, gives the example of advertising alongside food-related content: “If you are a food advertiser, you’re not just going to advertise beside food programmes. We have 24 food-related programmes but food, or meal times, as they appear across the entirety of ITV’s programming estate, are actually represented thousands of times. So we are using machine learning to understand when those meal times occur and what’s been served [in the content] – is it pizza? Burgers? Spaghetti Bolognese?
“We’re able to create advertising breaks for advertisers adjacent to that concept, unlocking what we’re calling ‘next generation contextual targeting’ using metadata already inherent in the content we have.”
The new product has been tested in market for six months and ITV is “delighted” with the feedback it has received about its performance.
McLachlan revealed that Planet V has onboarded almost 1,300 users [meaning TV buyers], with most of them being monthly active users. The broadcaster has converted the entirety of its digital video billing system to Planet V, and does not take direct orders [for digital video] anymore. To illustrate the range of businesses using the platform to advertise across ITV’s programming he brings up several recent examples, including a chain of tanning salons across Stockport, solicitors firms in Birmingham, and a glass fitting company in Glasgow looking to amplify its proposition by advertising to customers within a certain drive time of where it is located. He says: “Everything is going through Planet V. We have thousands and thousands of advertisers – our run rate is ridiculous – and we’re driving into new markets as well.”
Speaking briefly about ITVX – ITV’s forthcoming streaming service – McLachlan believes the new offer will “revolutionise” the broadcaster’s business. We’re fully re-imagining ITV’s streaming proposition and it’s going to knock your socks off.”
McLachlan believes that broadcasters are at risk of collectively failing if they cannot compete with digital native businesses that have innovation “hard-coded” into their DNA. He argues that broadcasters do not compete with each other so much anymore, but with companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook and TikTok that have codified “disruption, agility and a hacker mindset” into developing their advertising products.
He comments: “They could move much faster. They had much greater dexterity, and were able to work with greater confidence around risk – around unknowns.” According to McLachlan, until recently ITV had not succeeded in significantly tapping into the discretionary budgets allocated to advertisers to spend on innovative ad products, but over the last two years the company has been “quietly moving innovation into the beating heart” of its business.
He notes that around September 2021, the broadcaster had put into place a process which allowed it to codify its “innovation journey” into an ad labs proposition, developing a group of teams that have the designated responsibilities of delivering innovation across the entirety of the company’s estate. The broadcaster has been reviewing its systems, data, processes and tech stack, and developed a set of concepts that went through a rigorous assessment phase – from ideation through to concept, then to pilot and on to a beta protocol that clients can participate in.
McLachlan says: “The world is crying out for more progressive solutions that allow broadcasters, advertisers and agencies to avail of the richness of the ecosystem in which we now operate.
“This is how we win. This is how we re-frame what TV is about when the ecosystem is changing so quickly and other businesses are trying to muscle in on our territory. This is how we fight back, and we’ll be more effective if we do it together.”