Channel 4 trials AI that identifies TV scenes it can pair with contextual ads

An ad for Channel 4's Humans

Channel 4 has revealed a new artificial intelligence (AI) ad product that will let brands better integrate with linear TV.

The broadcaster announced during its 2018 summer Upfronts event that it is on the hunt for partners keen to test the new ‘contextual moments’ technology. The tool is powered by an algorithm will use visual and audio recognition to identify ideal linear TV moments for relevant brands to integrate with.

"For example, a character in a show might be seen enjoying a cup of tea and this scene may appeal to a tea brand whose ad would then be placed in the following break," said Channel 4.

While in the early stages, the network looks to sell these moments in bundles to brands across different categories, be it food, hot drinks, relationships or mobile phones. Channel 4’s own research found that placing contextual ads next to regular spots, meant spontaneous awareness was up a third, while positive brand perception 12% and purchase intent rose by 13%.

Channel 4 already invites cooking brands to buy spots around relevant shows like Great British Bake Off. However, now they will be able to buy into in the likes of flagship shows such as Gogglebox, Humans or Naked Attraction every time a lead character uses their stove, or orders in a meal.

By increasing ad effectiveness via AI, Channel 4 spots purchased using this tool will likely carry a higher price.

Brand safety concerns have been addressed by the company too, it said it is will use the tech to find positive moments in the show, then after that humans will validate the spot for a contextual ad. The AI will be doing the heavy lifting, scanning the content in advance.

Jonathan Allan, chief commercial officer of Channel 4, said: “Our pioneering ad tech provides an exciting opportunity for advertisers to test a global first in linear TV ad targeting which we know delivers strong results.

“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.”

After trials, Channel 4 will present its results later this year.

Machine learning and AI is increasingly being embraced by media companies, whether it is by Getty to identify good images, Fox to cut World Cup highlights or Bloomberg to create artwork for its magazine.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.