Channel 4’s Synthetic Persona ads for drama Humans was ‘risky’ for brand, but expect more of the same

Channel 4 is set to create more unusual adverts for its programming akin to the recent Synthetic Persona campaign it ran for TV drama Humans despite admitting it was “risky” for the broadcaster’s brand image.

The campaign, which ran in May this year, featured a futuristic advert for Persona Synthetics – a brand of highly developed robotic servants – and included a web shop front, social accounts and an eBay store where visitors could bid on a robot in a mock auction.

Speaking at the Havas/Channel 4 Meaningful Brands event yesterday (13 July) Channel 4 sales director Johnathan Allan said that despite having “a reputation to uphold” there is a pressure on the broadcaster to take risks.

“[The ad] was a lot of pressure on the organisation to take a risk, but we are always every week pushing ourselves to do things we potentially think we shouldn’t, but we should, because we owe it to the brand and its stakeholder to keep pushing those boundaries,” he said. “That ad was a great example of pushing people quite hard to allow us to show it; a lot of people said we shouldn’t but obviously it broke, it was huge, and went around the world but at the start it felt very risky.”

Chief executive David Abraham said Synthetic Persona-style stunts are “hugely” important for Channel 4 going forward and the broadcaster will be launching similar ads in the future after seeing a “profound” effect on viewing numberd for the premiere of Humans, which hit around 6million.

Abraham added that a new Channel 4 brand campaign will break this Thursday (16 July) and while he was reluctant to reveal the details he did say that the central character of the ad will be a dog.

On Channel 4 being perceived as a ‘meaningful brand’, Abraham said he felt strongly that the channel “has a lot of meaning” but at the same time he is dubious about using the term.

“We all learnt to be quite cautious about proclaiming meaning as if to say other brands don’t have meaning become it automatically becomes a judgmental thing,” he said. “One of our biggest challenges has always been to try to speak about the brand without in a sense just speaking about it and let our content speak for itself.”

Asked whether Channel 4 will make it easier for successful online and YouTube presenters to make the shift to TV, Allen said that as much as the broadcaster would like to source talent from digital channels, Channel 4 is actually looking to take advantage of shifting audience and “source out” its linear TV programming to those channels.

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