What’s changed since your time at Platform A?

Michael Steckler: The biggest thing that’s changed is the technology in the backend, as an industry that’s really coming into fruition. The ability to target individual ad impressions to individual users with personalised creative is now a reality and it’s being done on scale.

I think display as an industry is starting to grow more than it has done ever. In terms of its potential, I think in two to three years it will account for 50% of all online ad spend. In the UK, a market that’s dominated by search, that’s a pretty phenomenal shift.

So those are probably the biggest shifts I’ve seen.

How has Criteo been helping BSkyB achieve its goals?

Joel Christie: We are actually going through a process of looking at how we’re working together. One of the points to how things have changed is a lot more consultative now than previously. Part of that, we have to go through a lot more rigorous analysis with the data. What could we provide for you? Strengths and weaknesses? Also tagging is a part of that.

We’re actually talking now about how we can look at using things like prospecting and how we work together with partners like these guys [Criteo] as well.

We’re trying to take more of a consultative approach. We’ve heard some great stuff about Criteo and what they’ve done in the retargeting space. We don’t necessarily want to go down that road but we have talked with Michael about how we could work more in the prospecting space and that’s actually brought some good conversations.

What’s the most impressive project your two companies have worked together on?

MS: One of the things that Joel mentioned we’re working together on is really interesting. Criteo is currently about trying to get consumers who’ve left a site to come back and buy a product and that’s still a core part of our business, but what we’re now looking at is how you get those consumers that either have bought there a long time ago or been previously and haven’t bought a product, to come back or to buy a few products? How do you get those visitors that have never been to the website, never used your service? How do you get them to come back? We think display is best placed as a medium because it’s the perfect combination of brand and direct response.

We’re very interested in using third-party data combined with technology to understand and predict user intent to drive people who could buy Sky products who maybe aren’t Sky customers today through to the website. We’re doing that across all customers and that’s pretty good.

How about the whole second-screen experience? Are you seeing much traction with tablets?

MS: We think for us tablets are probably the most short-term lead because lots of e-commerce sales and sales in general are taking place in browsers on tablets. We’re pretty focused on delivering relevant advertising across tablets.

In Japan, we’ve already been running quite a lot of campaigns across tablets and smartphones. The initial results have been very positive. There are similar conversion rates to what we see on desktop and the clickthrough rates are quite high.

Banner blindness is growing, how do you hope to combat this?

MS: Honestly, without sounding all glib, there was a comScore report stating that people don’t click anymore, but that’s because there are a load of rubbish ads being display over the last few years that were irrelevant to consumers. Our average clickthrough rate is anywhere between 0.5% and 0.6%. The industry average is about 0.09% or that sort of ballpark.

The way to combat banner blindness is to show the best and most relevant ads to consumers, and then they’ll click through. As an industry we’re getting better at showing the appropriate ads to the appropriate consumer and that reduces that banner blindness that we’ve seen previously.

JC: For us it’s about segmentation, so if you serve just a generic ad to everyone they won’t see it. However, if you segment who we’re trying to show an ad to and serve the right ad with the right message then, as Michael was saying it becomes relevant and you’re going to increase the engagement level. Then constantly refreshing it, constantly testing it, you can understand your audience segments and who reacts to what.

It’s all about segmentation, testing and then constantly evaluating how it performs.

What problems do you envisage in the future if more browsers enable ‘do not track’ by default?

MS: Criteo believes in greater transparency and giving consumers control over digital advertising. We therefore support the DNT (Do Not Track) initiative along with self-regulation initiatives lead by industry bodies the DAA and IAB, etc. Criteo work with user’s non-personally identifiable information through cookies in order to increase the relevancy of the ads we serve. Digital advertising is what keeps the internet alive for the benefit of all those who use it; therefore ensuring advertising is relevant and engaging is in our view the future of online advertising and a principle of good practice.

Are you noticing the well-publicised shortfall in those will data-analysing expertise at Sky?

JC: Luckily we’ve got a very good agency that’s got a very strong data analyst team. In-house we haven’t and may need that: since we do have lots of data we can cut any number of ways. What we tried to do, rather than look at the data and see where that takes us, we try and fix a goal. What is it we’re trying to achieve and work back from there? How can we use the data to hit that goal, rather than vice versa.

For example, we want to try and improve our upgrades to the sports package and start with people who subscribe to Sky Sports and work back from there. Data analysts are definitely an area that’s in need of growth in the whole market, less so on the sales side for media, but definitely in agencies if you think about what’s happening in terms of the vast amount of data campaigns are generating. You have to understand the impact of that data and we see a stronger need for that.

What about Criteo? Do you think it has a responsibility to educate the market on this issue?

MS: We have had a university engagement programme in France and in the UK to look at the benefits of looking at data insights and playing with data. Could we do more to educate the industry? Possibly. I think at our business we’re trying to demystify some of this, so we’d like to feel that our advertisers don’t feel the need to hire data analysts to do that for them. We’re presenting the results in a way that’s understandable, simple and measurable. That’s really what our business is built on. I don’t want us to encourage this perception that everyone has to go out and hire loads of data analysts. I think with your partners, whether that’s your agency or companies like us, you shouldn’t need to.

I think data is a skillset that’s probably less about hiring data analysts at a lower level. It’s more about making it a core competency of the CEO and CMO. They don’t need to be a data analyst, but they do need to put it at the centre of their business.

JC: The skillset is required in applying marketing theory to data. The marketer effectively says, “I’ve got this data, now what am I going to do with it? How can I apply a marketing spin to it?”

Is that the end game? Taking data and making it integral to marketing strategy? What’s the future of display?

JC: As budgets get signed off by finance teams or heads of marketing you need to use the business insights they understand instead of technical jargon. It will work when you get people who are passionate about what you can do with your data and then can tell stories with it. So they can go back into their organisations and say, “these are the wonderful things we can do with this opportunity. Give me more scope. Give me more licence. Give me more resource. I’ll go out and do it.” If you can get that right, your catch will flow from the TV from offline to the online space and then these guys can really show what they can do, rather than limited budgets and limited resource.

MS: I second that. For us, the future of display is highly targeted, personalised, advertised at scale, on a measurable performance basis. The biggest issue is understanding where the consumer is, whether they’re at the very top of the sales funnel where they’re not active yet, right through to the consumers who are likely to buy your product. Longer term that will be cross channel, so display won’t be a silo separate from search, affiliates and social activities. It’ll instead be used across the board.