Channel 4 credits ‘Born Risky’ strategy for boosting brand perceptions

Channel 4 has credited its “Born Risky” marketing and content strategy for boosting viewer perceptions of the channel and the distinctiveness of its advertising proposition versus competitors, metrics the broadcaster hopes will translate into it breaking even for the first time in two years in 2014. 

Channel 4’s October 2013 Born Risky brand ad

Alongside “risky” programming such as Black Mirror the broadcaster trumpeted the success of its autumn 2013 “Born Risky” ad campaign that aimed to articulate key aspects of its public service remit to audiences as helping to set its channel portfolio apart from rivals amongst consumers last year.

Post-campaign research found the campaign strengthened Channel 4’s reputation for taking risks – up from 47 per cent pre-campaign to 69 per cent – and a third of viewers claimed the ad made them more likely to watch the channel.

Over the past year, eight of the 11 metrics Channel 4 uses to measure itself against rivals – which are based on its public service remit: scores such as cultural diversity, viewpoints of the minority and taking a different approach – improved year on year, up from the 5 improved metrics in 2012 and zero reported in 2011.

Speaking at the broadcaster’s annual report presentation at its London headquarters today (8 May), Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham said in response to a question from Marketing Week: “For the first time we addressed an issue I always felt was an important one: that if you stop someone in the street and say ‘who owns Channel 4 and what’s it there to do?’, I don’t think we succeeded until now in explaining this link that we are publicly owned and put what would be profit back into making programmes, which gives us higher risk ratio in terms of what we are trying to do.”

Born Risky to mature in 2014

In 2014 Channel 4 plans to extend on these improvements by launching up to “half a dozen” new iterations of the “Born Risky” campaign, Channel 4’s marketing and communications director Dan Brooke told Marketing Week. That will include one “big burst” and smaller iterations, similar to its viral hit “Gay Mountain” to celebrate the end of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics or its move to introduce on-air continuity announcements with speech impediments.

Brooke said: “People said [of our Born Risky approach] that they hadn’t seen such distinctive positioning from any brand for quite some time. For most companies taking risks is not a virtue for them. It helps us stand apart, which also helps from a commercial perspective.”

Another major marketing project in 2014 will be the “significant” autumn refresh of on-demand service 4oD to be more consistent across different platforms and to offer more targeted content recommendations as the broadcaster looks to grow its digital income.

Channel 4 looks to turn 2013 loss into 2014 break-even

Channel 4’s total revenue fell 2 per cent to £908m in 2013, which it attributed to non-recurrent events in 2012 such as the Olympics and Paralympics and the spike from DVD sales of the Inbetweeners Movie. TV advertising and sponsorship revenues across Channel 4’s own portfolio fell by £8m year on year to £825m.

The broadcaster reported an operating loss of £15m in 2013, an improvement on the £29m deficit posted in 2012, as it continued to invest in content, digital and commercial initiatives. Both deficits were planned, but in 2014 Channel 4 intends to achieve financial breakeven, with the overall market outlook currently positive for TV advertising for the remainder of the year.

Online and non traditional ad revenue grew 15 per cent to £61m. The broadcaster’s data strategy also continued apace, achieving 10 million registered 4oD viewers two years ahead of target, up from £6m in 2012.m Almost a third (29.5 per cent) of VOD views came from logged in registered viewers.

Channel 4 is currently developing further insight and planning tools and the next phase of commercial data targeting which it says will expand the inventory and targeted products available on the market.

Jonathan Allan, Channel 4 sales director, told Marketing Week the broadcaster will begin testing with about 10 trial advertisers the launch of interest targeting across 4oD. Those interest segments will be based on the programmes that viewers have previously watched as well as pre-defined interests such as “food”.

Viewing share dip

In terms of linear TV viewing figures, Channel 4 did not achieve the audience share it had set out for 2013, with portfolio audience share declining 0.5 percentage points to 11 per cent – missing its target of 11.4 to 11.8 per cent.

Chief creative officer Jay Hunt said this reflected the BBC shifting its daytime schedule to become more adult facing, although she added the broadcaster remained “remarkably resilient” in terms of its share of peak viewing and its ability to attract a younger audience.

Channel 4 chairman Lord Burns admitted some of the audience share targets set out on the previous year had been particularly “severe” for executives to meet, given the unexpected shift by the BBC.

He said targets for 2014 would be more reflective of peak time viewing and reaching younger demographics.

Meanwhile, chief executive David Abraham added advertising key performance indicators were also likely to be widened to reflect the development of new revenue streams in addition to the target share of UK TV net advertising – which this year the broadcaster met at 26.5 per cent.