Getting Personal with Programmatic

Programmatic advertising has exploded over the last couple of years, and IAB is forecasting that 70%+ of all UK digital display will be programmatic by 2018. Digital ad spending is expected to surpass TV advertising in the near future due in part to increased consumer adoption of ‘cord-cutting’ and the evolution of viewing patterns.

It’s no surprise that content owners are investing in this space. News Corp., a Janrain customer, acquired video ad tech firm Unruly back in September and the company is already seeing a return on its investment. This month Unruly launched Custom Audiences in Australia for the media agency MediaCom (customer unknown), which works by mapping the data it has around content evaluation so media buyers can target audiences who are genuinely interested in the video or content.

Correctly targeting content is something Janrain has written extensively about, and while we are seeing industry gains with inferred data, UK broadcaster Channel 4 has seen some incredible results with declared first-party data. It’s worth recapping the first-party data strategy of Channel 4, which has been a Janrain customer for a number of years.

Back in 2013, when Channel 4 only had one in three UK 16-24 year olds in its Janrain database, they launched personalised ad formats cross-channel over VoD. Vauxhall, the UK arm of General Motors, served up alternative bespoke creative based on age and gender.

Fast-forward to 2014, when Channel 4 CEO David Abraham announced at the Edinburgh International Television Festival the broadcaster is now holding half of all 16-24 year olds in the UK in the Janrain database. Abraham said, “What’s the point? Well, we can personalise, which works for viewers and advertisers, and means we can pay for even more programmes.”

That same year, Channel 4 delivered the world’s first individually personalised digital campaign with Coca-Cola (another Janrain customer) serving viewers aged between 16-34 with bespoke adverts and morphing the Channel 4 logo into a personalised Coke bottle. Needless to say, Coke received a fair bit of industry recognition; the brand received a Silver Lion award for WPP’s MediaCom and Channel 4 gaining “Best Use of Data for Audience Buying” at this year’s Lions and Media Week Awards.


Beyond the outstanding creative, Channel 4 realised incredible results with first-party data-led targeted ads (on mobile devices and PCs) now representing 30% of its total digital advertising revenues. Channel 4 will soon be launching Ad 4 You, which offers personalised creative based on registration data such as age, gender, interest, location and even local weather!

Jonathan Lewis, Head of Digital & Partnership Innovation for Channel 4, said last week at the Future of TV Advertising forum in London that “the introduction of programmatic trading of targeted VOD and linear inventory on the All 4 platform is the culmination of a data-driven strategy that began with user registrations covering basic demographic details.”

Next year is going to be very interesting for programmatic. I think we will see additional investment, leading to more innovation and more blending of first-party data, social data and inferred data, based on content activity.

Predictions for Programmatic in 2016:

  • There will be huge native advertising growth, as a result of ad-blockers
  • More than half of all programmatic will be on mobile
  • Buyers will challenge agencies on mistargeting
  • Segmented and tailored content will become more of the norm
  • Publishers and content owners will enrich inferred third-party data, with segments from known users