Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

The rise of the selfie advert

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast March 27, 2014

TV can reap the rewards with more personal ads, says Kate Bulkley

Ads have always been clever and creative, and now they’re making much better use of data and interactivity to make them more personal. Sky’s AdSmart (and its like) are taking us into the era of what might be called the selfie ad.

The selfie ad is all about you: where you are and who you are with. The fact that everyone is taking selfies, from Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars (pictured) to President Obama and David Cameron at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, indicates that the trend isn’t just for the kids any more.

Broadcasters, advertisers and brands are learning that the consumer really likes being talked to as an individual. There is also growing evidence that we enjoy getting something directly from an ad that is tailored to us. This may not sound new, but now we have the technology to make it happen – and on steroids.

For example, online music service Spotify came up with a way to encourage its users to watch an ad for a new film. If the consumer watched it all the way through, they were rewarded by Spotify telling them which of the film characters they were most similar to, based (of course) on their Spotify music playlists.

The ‘gift’ was the equivalent of taking a selfie with one of the film’s characters. It worked brilliantly and Spotify is now trying to find more selfie-inspired rewards around its adverts.

After a six-month trial and nearly three months of commercial roll-out, Sky’s AdSmart has resulted in Audi finding people who are more likely to buy its cars; East Coast Trains managing to send different messages to three cities in the North that generated a 26% online sales uplift; and some companies, including BMI Healthcare and Localgiving, advertising on TV for the first time because of this new way of reaching their audience.

Sky believes that AdSmart will help it generate better results for TV advertisers. It also thinks the technology has the potential to target non-TV ad spend, a market worth upwards of £5.6bn a year.

Channel 4 is also busy crunching 60 billion bits of viewer interaction data gleaned from its 4oD service, which has more than 10 million registered users. That means it can provide demographically targeted ad packages that have delivered higher ad recognition and click-through rates than traditional VoD adverts.

This data-driven trading is bringing TV advertising closer to what is already happening online – while hopefully sustaining the higher value of the TV advert.

And that’s not all. In his book Reputation Economics, US technology expert Joshua Klein says that due to the interactive nature of online information, a new currency is developing based on your reputation (built online) and what you have to sell. Think of Airbnb, the accommodation site where you book a stay with strangers based on their online reputation. This is a new kind of commerce that is very personal indeed.

Products, brands and individuals are reaching each other differently in the digital era and this has big implications for how broadcasters fund their business and maintain their audiences.

It’s a selfie that all of them need to take very seriously indeed.

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