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Are AI-driven ‘Contextual Moments’ the future for linear TV?

It may be with excitement or trepidation that we see the future of AI playing out today. From poster girl ‘SIRI’ to facial recognition to self-driving cars, AI continues to surprise and push the boundaries; we already know that algorithms can outmanoeuvre even the best chess players. So how could AI influence linear TV?

Channel 4 has unveiled AI-driven technology which is designed to match a brand’s advertising with relevant scenes in TV programmes. They are coining this as ‘Contextual Moments’. The example used by C4 was to picture a scene in a show where the characters are having a cup of tea. AI tech would select a tea brand to run in the following ad break and thereby creating a contextual moment.

So how does this really work?

Using audio and visual cues from the TV programmes, the AI tech identifies these potential contextual moments. It uses a scoring process from 1-5 based on the relevance of what is happening in the scene as well as a positivity score to identify appropriate moments. It will then match the scene to a relevant brand’s ad.

C4’s CCO, Jonathan Allen has said, “Our ‘Contextual Moments’ trial offers advertisers the ability to buy bundles of relevant advertising within a quality and safe broadcast environment for the first time ever.”

Research carried out by C4 and BDRC Continental show a rosy picture. The lab test stimulated a real viewing experience with 1,800 viewers assigned to control and test groups. The key takeaway that C4 are shouting out about is that ad recall was double for those who saw an ad in the contextual moment compared to the control group.

Other key metrics from the research that showed improvements with contextual viewing include:

  • +34% spontaneous awareness
  • +12% positive brand perceptions
  • +13% purchase intent

C4 are inviting advertising partners to test this new AI tech live on linear TV later this year with effectiveness results from this trial to also be presented in the back end of the year. They intend to sell contextual moments in bundles across categories such as food, travel, telecoms, etc.

All Response Media viewpoint

This offers very interesting implications for how we plan and buy linear TV in the future. While we already work with all sales houses to pair relevant programming with our brands, this is undeniably a step further into the future.

Of course, we will not go blindly into the night; there are implications to this tech that we can’t ignore. For example, brand safety? C4 have advised that even after the AI pairs these ‘contextual moments’ that it will be screened by a human for that extra level of brand security. However, as the trialling commences it will be interesting to see the pairing in real time.

What kinds of premiums will be levied? While C4 has not advised as of yet what the pricing implications will be for this, we can assume a premium to buy ‘contextually’ will be applied. Will the improved brand metrics be enough to justify the increased cost? This remains a question for testing and time to tell.

On another view, with the new GDPR requirements in effect where consumers need to provide consent to be served a targeted advertisement, this new way of targeting (contextual over the audience) could represent a way to comply with GDPR and still provide relevancy.

It is still an untested (in real time) piece of AI tech but I for one am very interested to see how it plays out in the first round of testing later this year. I also wonder how quickly ITV and Sky will be to announce their own version of AI buying.

At All Response Media, we have the unique benefit of using our bespoke ARMalytics platform to evaluate response performance of contextual moments. We’ll be able to hold activity accountable and offer impartial evaluation. We’re ready to embrace and challenge this new future of AI tech.