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In a perpetual mission to compete with the Facebook-Google duopoly, UK’s Channel 4 aims for more ad dollars with customer data sharing regime

Digiday 16 Jun 2021 04:01
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June 16, 2021 by Kate Kaye

When British bank TSB ran ads for its Spend and Save account offerings featuring “Friends” star David Schwimmer as the prototypical hapless American tourist bumbling across the English countryside, even obliviously robbing soft-serve ice cream from a little kid, the risk-averse bank wanted to target specific people and directly measure its results.

The UK’s Channel 4, which ran the spots, complied by providing sophisticated privacy and security protections that the media outlet hopes will help it to compete with digital ad sellers like Google and Facebook in garnering ad revenue, especially from advertisers with lots of customer data but data privacy and security worries. 

The British government-owned TV network — which carries programs like “The Great British Baking Off” and also airs ex-pat shows from the U.S. such as “Homeland” and yes, “Friends” — invested in a new way to match the data it has about its 25 million logged-in viewers of its on-demand, streaming All 4 platform, such as their gender, email addresses, dates of birth and postal codes, with the heavily-fortified stuff ad clients such as financial services firms like TSB have, without actually having to share or intermingle the data. 

Advertisers are also interested in testing the waters before they dive in with a publisher or media outlet to see if they indeed have enough matches to warrant a deal, said Shereen Shermak, CEO and co-founder of Nth Party, another data firm offering cryptographic data services for data matching. “It’s very helpful to do a match test before the sale,” she said. Shermak said what her firm does is “true cryptography” that goes above and beyond other more widely-used approaches to obscuring personally-identifiable data such as salting and hashing.

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