Sky: Online advertising isn't as effective as digital evangelists think

Sky: ads are tailored for different customers depending on what products they have
Sky: ads are tailored for different customers depending on what products they have

We're entering a new era in online advertising because brands are using data and technology to question its effectiveness, says Andrew Mortimer, director of media at Sky, Britain's biggest advertiser.

Like many brands, Sky’s has increased its advertising spend on digital media. Driven by consumer behaviour and the growing quality of advertising opportunities, particularly in online video, a significant proportion of our budget is now spent online. 

But does this mean the death of the likes of TV, print and outdoor advertising? I don’t think so, because of two reasons – how technology is driving better understanding of online and how it is enhancing offline media.  

We’re entering a new era in online advertising – one in which data and technology are making many advertisers question whether online advertising is as effective as it was thought to be.

We know more about visibility, viewability and fraud. Then of course there’s ad-blocking, which has dominated the agenda.  Ad-blocking is facilitated by technological development, though ultimately driven by poor customer experiences regarding online advertising quality and screen clutter.

It means we will see budget moving away from smaller online platforms and publishers to the bigger players like Facebook and Google who can deliver the kind of quality of service and innovation we need.  A kind of digital Darwinism.

And media like outdoor and TV could also benefit as digital technology is significantly enhancing their capability.

The targeting and flexibility in digital outdoor means Sky runs hundreds of different poster executions per year, with copy changing to promote different shows or sports fixtures on different days and in different areas. Or to run sales ads on days we know are more effective such as breaking news for Sky News or transfer deadline day stories for Sky Sports.

Also on TV, targeted advertising is one of the most exciting opportunities that technology such as our own Sky AdSmart has opened up in the last few years. TV has always been the most powerful medium through which to engage consumers. Sky AdSmart uses advances in technology and data to enhance the power of TV.

For the marketing team at Sky, the technology means we have the ability to address specific customer segments through their televisions and tablets, allowing personalisation at scale.

It has allowed things like testing of different creative executions to measure the impact on sales or viewing or different adverts for homes with and without children. 

We can run ads that are tailored for different customers depending on what Sky products they have. For example, a Sky Movies customer won’t be shown an ad with an offer to upgrade to the service. Instead, they will see a promotion for upcoming premieres, or a Sky Broadband ad if they don’t already have that.  We’ve even created a special ad for people living in Enfield to promote the Enfield Haunting, which was our biggest drama last year. 

These enhancements are proving very effective for Sky. It’s one of the reasons that have helped drive sales and customer loyalty in recent years. What’s particularly exciting is that we are only at the beginning of working out what all this new technology can do.

Andrew Mortimer is director of media at Sky.

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