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BBH strategy lead warns agencies to ‘tread carefully’ with personalized CTV ads


By Hannah Bowler | Journalist

May 25, 2022 | 5 min read

BBH London group strategy director Niki Jones says personalized CTV campaigns are a “big concern” and warned agencies to “tread carefully” when executing them.

Reflecting on a Diet Coke TV ad that placed viewers’ names on a can of coke, Jones says that level of personalization can be “awful” as it reminds consumers they are being tracked.

Gorillas personalized ‘Whatever London Wants’ campaign

Gorillas’ personalized ‘Whatever London Wants’ campaign

“Consumers are becoming more data literate,” she told The Drum. “People are more aware than ever that they are leaving a valuable data trail, and with increasing data collection available with the additions of things like voice and biometrics, people will expect better data hygiene from brands.”

According to Jones, personalized ads feel more acceptable in retail where customers are used to trading their data for discounts, or in health where consumers can see the benefit to being personally targeted. It’s in FMCG where personalization feels less acceptable and more like the hard sell, Jones says.

“Brands need to make sure it doesn’t feel like the dark arts and show consumers they are respectful of their data. That means that personalized ads either need to come with a clear benefit to consumers, or be quiet and ensure a seamless customer experience while being reassuringly transparent at appropriate touchpoints,” she says.

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“That is where CTV has got to get so much better – you need personalization that is almost hidden.”

Jones offers the recent Gorillas campaign ‘What London wants’ as an example of a brand running appropriately personalized ads. In the campaign Gorillas openly declared its knowledge of buying habits and personalized its ads to districts in London – for example, Islington had the largest number of shoppers of avocados in London, so Gorillas ran avocado ads that said: ‘Islington loves getting smashed.’

Jones says the campaign felt different “because the brand was talking to large groups of consumers, so I don’t feel like you’re tracking my individual, personal data (even though of course you are), and it’s a cultural talking point, fresh and provocative.”

Creativity and CTV

Elsewhere, Jones tells advertisers to remember the creative side of executing CTV campaigns. “We focus so much on being able to monitor and measure and prove the RIO of advertising, and that has been at the expense of creativity,” she says.

Jones admits she is yet to see a planner put CTV creative before linear, but says it’s still early days. When the market eventually switches to CTV-first planning Jones says she hopes they can incorporate the learnings from linear.

“The principles of how you beautifully craft entertaining content, they still apply for the upper funnel, like how you entertain people and be emotional and memorable – don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater for it,” she says.

“CTV feels like it can be a wonderful bridge between creativity and control,” Jones says. “It can build on what we know makes successful AV communications and benefit from being brilliantly targeted and relevant. There’s a hope that this new medium can help to bring back creative effectiveness.”

Later in the conversation, Jones says the CTV world needs to be simplified. “It’s all quite mind-boggling. Even the recent IAB whitepaper on CTV, there was something like 14 to 15 acronyms in there,” she said. “It needs to be simplified and the benefits need to be made really clear.”

BBH has previously produced ads for The Trade Desk to explain what CTV is and articulate the advantages.

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