Unruly and News Corp bring emotional programmatic targeting to Australia

By Rachael Micallef & Sarah Homewood | 1 December 2015
Sharb Farjami and Sarah Wood

Video ad tech firm Unruly has launched a new targeting capability for programmatic video ads, allowing advertisers to reach consumers most likely to emotionally engage with the content.

The service, Unruly Custom Audiences, is the first major Australian launch from the company, since it was acquired by News Corp in September.

Custom Audiences uses Unruly's predictive algorithm, Unruly ShareRank, to target across paid media, Australian consumers who are most likely to experience a strong emotional connection to the video.

Speaking to AdNews, Unruly co-founder and co-CEO, Sarah Wood, said the launch of Custom Audiences is “huge for the market” in that it delivers value beyond a video view.

It works by mapping the data it has around content evaluation so “for the first time” media buyers can apply that to paid media distribution.

“Everything that we've learnt about content - what makes it shareable and what makes people engage with content - we take that data and we use it to build a subset of the target audience," Wood explained.

“It means we can make sure we're only reaching people who are genuinely interested in the video or in that content.”

MediaCom is the first agency to use the targeting ability in Australia, with an online video campaign in the works, but Wood remained tight-lipped on what client it was running the work for.

She did however say the tool, which has already been launched in markets such as the UK and the US, has been a huge success in terms of brand favourability, intent to purchase and recall.

Wood also said its launch was timely given research unveiled by Integral Ad Science last week which found that Australian viewability was the lowest of all markets.

“For Unruly this is the perfect moment for us to be rolling out in Australia because veiwability is core to our product set,” Wood said.

Surviving the 'adpocalypse'

News Corp's national head of sales, Sharb Farjami, also confirmed to AdNews that in the near future the publisher would be bringing Unruly’s Future Video Lab, which is designed to work with advertisers to craft ad content that consumers want to watch, to Australian shores.

It launched in the US in September this year as part of the arsenal against adblocking, by creating videos that are appealing to viewers.

“The Future Video Lab was launched overseas to help advertisers create and craft a sustainable ad strategy that would help them survive the 'adpocalypse',” Wood said.

“We have a pop-up lab right here in Sydney now and we'll be bringing a full-flavour video lab in the coming months."

Farjami said the arrival of Future Video Lab would work together with a whole spate of News Corp products including its own News Corp Advertising Lab, noting that it all makes up a way of holistically working together, with separating entities now being “very very rare”.

Rebalancing of the ad economy

Despite Unruly having developed products to tackle adblocking, Wood says it doesn't necessarily spell doom and gloom, rather it could be a chance for advertisers to change the game.

“There's a real opportunity at the moment,” she said. “Consumers are responding to the insane amount of ads that are out there, and they're responding to that by installing adblockers, they're voting with their fingers," she said.

“But this is a great opportunity for the ad industry, and the quality players in the industry to differentiate themselves. For the best advertisers they'll be able to create authentic content that people want to watch, not block, and then distribute those ads in a social not anti-social way.”

Wood also explained that it's not a technical issue either, rather a symptom of a broader problem, that viewers and consumers are disconnected.

“There's a fundamental disconnect there. There's fragmentation of consumer attention and a dropping off of consumer attention. It's harder for advertisers than ever before to earn and capture viewer attention," she said.

“There will be a rebalancing of the ad economy in the coming months. Advertisers that win and advertisers that cut through the clutter are the advertisers that invest in creating valuable content.”

One-stop shop

Since the acquisition of social-aggregation service, Storyful, and with Unruly also coming into the News Corp fold, Farjami believes the publisher has sharpened up its offering, marrying content, data and audiences together in one offering.

“We have completely changed ourselves as a commercial and sales entity; the way that we work with our clients now is far more integrated and far more marketing service- and business solution-orientated,” Farjami said.

Farjami said News’ offering is different to other players in the market in that it comes from a content perspective. He said there is no one else in the market with the same tech capability but with the same type of storytelling background.

“We are a content company that now has tech capability which now means we can have a broader conversation with clients, buyers, agencies planners. It’s more holistic,” Farjami said.

“We can talk about business solutions rather than just media transactions.”

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