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How Sky is using programmatic and dynamic creative to ‘own’ global TV events

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By The Drum, Editorial

May 16, 2016 | 4 min read

Earlier this year Sky worked closely with Google to promote Sky Movies as the destination for UK-based movie lovers, using Google’s dynamic ads, plus programmatic advertising products in an attempt to “own” Oscars moments.

This activity reached its height on the final weekend of February this year in order for the broadcaster to highlight its exclusive live coverage of the awards ceremony in the UK.

However, with Sky's coverage of the red carpet event beginning at 11.30pm on a Sunday evening (plus the ceremony itself not starting until two hours later) the broadcaster was faced with challenges of engaging its audience (given that most were unlikely to be awake).

Abbey McGhee, brand marketing manager at Sky, described how it worked to address the issue of hitting the target audience with the desired content at a time when it was still at a premium.

Sky’s solution was to use Google’s advertising technology to implement dynamic creative ad formats, plus programmatic technologies to better target, and deliver said ad formats to relevant audiences against relevant content on premium publisher sites.

McGhee also explained how this strategy involved the formation of a “war-room” where editing staff worked through the night on putting together content packages (in many cases while the ceremony was still being screened). Such a rapid response time was necessary to “own” the event in the UK, says McGhee.

“We were able to send it in real-time, and make sure that the content was up [through the night, as well as] first thing in the morning,” said McGhee. “

Sky then worked with its media agency MediaCom to devise a strategy of which involved booking ad space on premium websites generating Oscar-related coverage (such as The Mail Online, The Sun, Time Inc. etc.). From here Sky was able to reiterate awareness of its unique Oscars coverage as soon as the bulk of relevant audiences began researching the results.

This strategy involved using Google’s data management platform (DSP) to target relevant audiences – this includes existing Sky and Sky Movies customers, plus other movie lovers - across the web using behavioural targeting techniques.

McGhee said the expansive web strategy involved bidding on relevant keyword auctions on Google’s search engine, as well as YouTube, with Sky’s “war-room” able to edit content into 15-30 second ad spots which ran on third-party properties, plus 60 second TrueView ad formats on video-sharing site YouTube.

“The question we asked ourselves the entire time was: ‘how do we put Sky Movies at the heart of The Oscars?’,” explained McGhee, “So we have to make our creative very engaging, especially in the first five seconds of the slot.”

After users clicked on said ads, they were then directed towards relevant Sky content on the broadcaster’s YouTube playlists , with McGhee describing the strategy it employed to promote its coverage of The Oscars, as one of the first times it used an online advertising strategy that was not ‘TV-first’.

This was one of the ‘big learnings’ from 2015, according to McGhee. “There’s now more of an awareness that you cannot just copy-and-paste from TV".

Other aspects the war-room had to consider when implementing this burst of the activity was how to make its ads “Feed-proof” (i.e. make them stand out when being served to audiences’ Facebook News Feed). A thought process that paid dividends, as McGhee reports “massive spikes in engagement".­­

More widely, the results were ‘overwhelming’ according to both Sky and Google. The overall engagement rate ended up 300 per cent higher than the display benchmark prediction, according to Google.

The real-time activity of the war-room involvement, also saw click through-rate (CTR) jump by 190 per cent as the ads aired (almost) live when the awards ceremony was still happening during the hours of the night here in the UK. On top of this, Sky also saw a 16 per cent increase in CTR in Sky viewers updating their “movies you want to watch” lists when compared to Sky’s control group for the same metric.

For its part, Sky is touting the activity as a case study in success in using such dynamic creative ads formats, plus programmatic advertising targeting and delivery.

“Next year we will definitely consider doing more,” said McGhee, adding that given the extent of Sky’s live coverage of events (such as news, and sports, etc.), the activity is likely to be a key tenet of how it promotes such content in future.

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