DP2017: Channel 4's Sanjeevan Bala | DP2017: Channel 4's Sanjeevan Bala | DMA

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DP2017: Channel 4's Sanjeevan Bala


Sanjeevan Bala is Channel 4’s head of data planning and analytics, responsible for using data for commercial and creative benefit. He was previously group account director at Dunnhumby where he developed data driven strategies for BskyB, eBay, Citibank, Centrica and Sotheby's.

The way Channel 4 broadcast has changed thanks to tech, people behaviour and of course, data. Sanjeevan Bala, head of planning & analytics – audience technologies & insight took to the stage to tell the attendees of Data Protection 2017 what they’ve been doing differently.

From one-to-many to one-to-one

There was a huge opportunity that Channel 4 were missing out Sanjeevan told us, and that opportunity was people. There was an acute need to develop a one-to-one relationship with the consumer / viewer, not just resting on laurels as an a-typical broadcaster beaming out to many people.

By developing a registration platform Channel 4 could marry up their offering with what their viewers actually wanted, and join this to marketing and commercial benefits for the consumer and C4 themselves.

Towards a new model

To develop this new Channel 4 universe, the organisation needed a new operating model, to be developed separately and capable of understanding the integral role of data.

Driving the change would be the job of data scientists and data strategists and to attract these skills Channel 4 partnered with higher education institutions, even bringing neuro-scientists on to the project.

This was the key to this approach to data transformation: Channel 4 sought outside-in thinking and examined other industries and spaces to learn from data transformation projects in other spheres.

Rewarding tech risk

Channel 4 set up internally to balance risk in the new they sought to help implement their data transformation. Sanjeevan told us of a CTO incentivised to bring on bigger tech risks, mitigated by a CIO with a brief to mitigate this risk and interrogate the new approaches suggested.

There was another key step: Channel 4 went completely open-source, a tactical move that allowed for rapid experimentation with this new wave of tech. The idea being, Sanjeevan explained, that people and process are the trump cards in driving change, and flexibility is also key.

Making consumer sign-ups a business objective

Sometimes huge projects can leave people in an organisation either not closely involved or not close enough to the mechanics to buy-in fully.

Channel 4 sought to combat this by creating corporate-wide KPIs around the number of viewer sign-ups. What better way to push forward organisational change than by co-opting the whole organisation into the project?

It was an approach that brought teams together and helped direct a unified consumer registration strategy.

It must be simple to work

But clarity is always a huge challenge in sizeable projects, and Sanjeevan told us that in determining a clear viewer value exchange around Channel 4’s new registration process, a little TV quality was required.

Chattyman Alan Carr was enlisted to explain to viewers the organisation’s data approaches, using simple language and total transparency. The project would also deliver to Channel 4 and consumers commercial benefits as products for demographic advertising, personalised variations and cross-platform ads would populate this new data-enabled universe.

Curative power meets personalisation

Sanjeevan reminded our attendees of the power of strong creative and personalisation in the ads that Channel 4 and their partners would share.

Personalisation was of course key, with ad experiences tailored all the way through to weather forecasts. But as a creative organisation, Channel 4 strived for balance between cutting-edge creative – the thrill of discovery and serendipity - and sought not to over personalise ad work. Initially realising commercial revenue of 30% to 50% - all to the benefit of Channel 4’s commissioning capability – these were returns Sanjeevan put down to a renewed, smarter use of data.

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