Sky AdSmart – The Start of Things to Come

Posted on July 25th, 2014 by · Filed under Video Production articles

Sky Adsmart

Despite the many recent advances in entertainment technology – smartphones, tablets, streaming services such as Netflix – recent statistics would seem to point out that the more things change, the more they stay the same: Britons love watching TV, typically for around 4 hours per day, according to Thinkbox.

Now, a debate about what the phrase “watching TV” even means for most people these days is probably best left for another time, but certainly this study highlighted that ‘traditional’ viewing, namely people sat in their armchair of an evening, likely half-asleep, and flipping around to see if there’s “anything good on” is alive and well, and as popular as it’s ever been.

Sky have of course been a gargantuan player in the UK TV market for nearly 25 years, and have arguably blazed a number of trails which have since been followed by other broadcasters. Their latest innovation, Sky AdSmart, is for the moment proprietary, but in my opinion, it’s the start of another trend which will become commonplace over time.

Sky AdSmart was launched in Autumn 2013 but is being rolled out in earnest now. It is simple, and effective. In essence, it uses your customer data – the stuff you’ve already shared with Sky, blended with certain Experian data – to serve you custom ad breaks. And you don’t even know that you’re watching them. In fact, you may ALREADY be watching AdSmart breaks.

Each night, your Sky box will download a selection of adverts which have been deemed suitable for your household. They may be for local products & services, or they may be for products which fit your household make-up, i.e. baby products for young families, or life insurance for older-skewing households. During an ad break on any of the Sky-prefix channels (One, 2, Living, Sports, Movies etc), whilst your single neighbour may be watching the latest Meerkat ‘hilarity,’ you, as a mid-30s, mid-affluence parent of children under 10, may be watching an advert for Centerparcs, for example.

Sky have invested heavily in the service, in reality working hard to essentially bring online ad targeting techniques into the living room, via a more traditional medium. But why?

Well, despite the huge growth in digital advertising of all kinds  – UK firms spent more than £6bn on digital ads in 2013 – and despite the time-shifting viewing that we all now take part in, the simple fact is that scheduled, broadcast TV still plays a huge part in most Britons’ daily routine. Traditional TV advertising – pick your channel(s), your timeslots and roll the dice – still reaches millions of eyeballs each day. It WORKS. But, it’s also expensive, certainly when looking at cost-per-impression in comparison with many digital ad products.

AdSmart gives your advert a much stronger chance of being seen by the intended audience, taking a big step toward guaranteeing that your copy is seen. It doesn’t matter which (Sky) channel you watch, the adverts are served up to you the in same way. 

“But,” I hear you say, “most people time-shift and skip the adverts…”  I know I do. But there are three things to consider here:

  1. Sky’s own customer data suggests that the majority (more than 80%) of viewers still watch in the traditional manner, i.e. live, as broadcast.
  2. Even when watching a time-shifted show, and skipping at x30 speed, the average viewer will still pick up on around 6 snapshots of a 30’ TV advert. Maybe advertisers should look at this as a creative challenge, as Volkswagen did with this commercial
  3. Remember, we’re no longer in the realm of traditional TV advertising – Sky are as keen to reduce wastage in your campaign as you are, and are committed to working with you to make sure that your money is spent on solid, measurable viewer impressions

For the record, I’m not on Sky’s payroll, and we don’t do any media buying at YourFilm. But we do produce TV adverts for clients both locally and nationally. Over the last few years, we have lost clients who simply haven’t been able to justify the wastage experienced with traditional (local) TV campaigns, even at low levels of airtime expenditure. The event of AdSmart – and the similar services which will inevitably follow from other TV companies down the line – levels the playing field again, re-opening the door for even small companies to one of the most powerful advertising mediums ever created.

We’re spoilt for choice, on both sides of the equation. Viewers have an increasing number of ways to choose what we see and how & when we see it. In line with this, advertisers have a borderline-bewildering number of ways in which we are able to put our messages in front of potential customers. TV hasn’t lost its lustre, it’s just in the process of adapting. Sky AdSmart is an important step in that evolution.

If you’d like to talk about how an AdSmart-driven TV advertising campaign could work for your business, please contact me