Channel 4 increases investment in VOD with tool to target custom audiences

Brands and agencies are 'behind the curve' in investing in video-on-demand, broadcaster says.

Mahon: Project Agora is part of digital strategy
Mahon: Project Agora is part of digital strategy

Channel 4 is ramping up its investment in video-on-demand by launching a tool to allow brands to match their audience segments across the broadcaster's platforms for the first time.

"Project Agora" is set to launch in the autumn and is a new level of targeting capability available on All 4. It is part of chief executive Alex Mahon’s ongoing strategy to focus on improving digital across the business.

More than 70% of Channel 4’s All 4 revenue is made up of brands buying against first-party-registered viewer data. Project Agora will "allow advertisers to leverage their own data capabilities to create their own bespoke, custom audience segments that can be targeted on All 4".

Channel 4 wants this to lead to better scale and cost-effectiveness in reaching younger audiences.

Mahon was joined by chief commercial officer Jonathan Allan to reveal the product to an audience of 1,200 members of advertising at its annual Upfronts event at the London Roundhouse last night (5 June).

All 4 delivered the "best-ever performance" last year, Mahon explained, having recorded more than 900 million views on the platform. "That’s the highest level of growth we’ve had since 2008," she declared.

"Now, given that we’ve been growing for 10 years, in the meantime it’s an incredible feat to deliver the biggest-ever growth rate. It means for us that the All 4 platform is reaching over 60% of UK 16- to 34-year-olds and over half of all the ABC1s in the country."

Agencies and brands ‘behind the curve’

Allan called on the audience to help him monetise the growth and claimed that brands and agencies have yet to realise the potential in VOD.

"To be honest, agencies and advertisers are a bit behind the curve in terms of their investment into [VOD], especially given the scale of the audiences and the cost-effective reach that it delivers," he said.

"Really, that’s largely in part down to me and my team for not doing our job properly and not banging the drum hard enough. And we recognise there’s a lack of measurement and all the broadcasters and Barb are fully on the case to assure you that we should have a robust system out there soon."

New format

This year’s upfront was held earlier in the year; the 2018 event took place in July, having moved to the summer from the autumn in previous years. It also featured a new pre-event called Upclose, an intimate one-hour session on the state of the advertising market for 100 key stakeholders.

Hosted by Mahon and Allan, Upclose kicked off with Channel 4 News business editor Siobhan Kennedy giving an update on the economic outlook in the UK and the impact of Brexit on consumer confidence.

Kennedy said that people are still spending, wages are holding up and employment is at its highest in 40 years. However, brands and agencies should not rest on their laurels because things could change very soon, since he has heard that big businesses have been called back into Whitehall under non-disclosure agreements and told to "dust off their no-deal plans".

Claire Enders, founder of Enders Analysis, added that brands and agencies should be targeting those aged over 40 because they now represent more than 60% of income and expenditure in the UK. Enders presented research that showed the over-45 demographic watches TV for five hours and 11 minutes a day.

Grey London chief creative officer Vicki Maguire also talked to the audience about the role of creativity. She explained the importance of coming up with work that is bold, not brave.

Later in the evening, a party featured live music from artists such as Craig David and Mabel. Experiential elements include a replica of the bar from Hollyoaks and a Film4 photo booth that allowed people to pose with a Bafta gong. Merlin Griffiths, the bartender from First Dates, made and served cocktails.

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