Advertisers will be able to target and buy online ads on a joined-up, "end-to-end" basis on ITV’s online video platform, ITV Hub, after the broadcaster agreed a licensing deal with ad-tech company Amobee.
Under the terms of the exclusive agreement in the UK and Ireland, it is thought ITV will hire about 25 staff from Amobee, which bought some of the assets of collapsed ad-tech company Videology last year.
The deal will mean ITV has its own, full ad-tech stack, including data management platform, ad server, and demand- and supply-side platform capabilities.
The Love Island and Britain’s Got Talent broadcaster plans to join up the tech stack with other data and technology, including Barb audience data and the CARIA ad campaign management platform, on an "end-to-end" basis.
ITV said it will give brands and agencies "total control", allowing them to choose audiences and book ads programmatically on an automated basis with a "simple-to-use dashboard".
The company said: "This new functionality means ITV will now give advertisers the best of both worlds – the ability to deliver mass simultaneous reach across linear channels, alongside targeted, data-driven addressable advertising on the Hub, appealing to a wider range of advertisers and meeting their widening requirements whilst maximising the commercial return for ITV."
ITV has made several moves in programmatic in the past, including a partnership with RadiumOne in 2015 and a trial with Sorensen Media in 2017, but they did not gain traction.
Dame Carolyn McCall, chief executive of ITV, has raised the stakes because she has told shareholders that investing in data, analytics and advanced advertising is one of her priorities – along with the expansion of ITV Hub and the launch of a new subscription video service, BritBox, a joint venture with the BBC.
McCall said: "This agreement [with Amobee] enables ITV to respond to our customers’ needs of frictionless targeted advertising in a brand-safe environment complementing what they currently do on our channels.
"It accelerates the strategic development of our VOD advertising capabilities and provides a technology platform that will enable ITV to create an industry standard for VOD to match the established system for linear advertising."
ITV Hub has grown in scale in recent years and now claims 28 million registered users.
ITV wants to own ad tech
Kelly Williams, managing director of commercial at ITV, said the Amobee deal will mean the broadcaster is able to offer ad-buying functionality on ITV Hub that has "previously only been available on large social platforms".
He said it was important for ITV to be able to "create our own platform" and it will "look to invite other broadcasters to join".
ITV has previously resisted doing a deal with rival Sky to join its addressable advertising platform, AdSmart.
McCall told Campaign in an interview in February that ITV didn’t want to pay to use Sky’s tech and "leak away" value as she put it.
"Our focus is on ensuring we have the right ad-tech partner to develop our own ability to segment our own audiences on the Hub," she said at the time.
In a co-ordinated effort with some agencies, ITV’s announcement about the Amobee deal included supportive statements from Chris Williams, chief executive of Publicis Media Exchange, and Adam Pace, chief digital officer at Omnicom Media Group. PMX and OMG are two of the UK’s biggest media buyers, with about 16% of the market each.
WPP’s Group M is the biggest media buyer with more than a third of the market and it operates its own addressable, online video ad platform, Finecast.
McCall told a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch last week that she was committed to investing in addressable advertising, the Hub and BritBox, despite economic uncertainty and jitters in the ad market because of Brexit.
Halting investments "would set ITV back because it would mean we don’t do all of these areas for the future that we need to do really well – it is all about technology, Hub, all the future-facing stuff", she said.
ITV disclosed in its annual report last month that it has been experimenting with what it called "robotic process automation" in advertising sales.
"Based on the proofs of concepts we did last year, we are now launching three trials across our broadcast business to test if our current robots can improve productivity in these specific test cases," it said.