Jayesh Rajdev, ITV: "We're always in beta"

“We’re always in beta”

It’s certainly an exciting time for TV. The rise of Connected TV and streaming platforms has led to a dramatic change in viewing behavior and consumption habits. Mass adoption of Connected TV (CTV) by consumers has led to an explosion in of first-party data by media owners, opening up exciting opportunities for advertisers to deliver data-driven advertising. 

In the latest episode of our Identity Architects podcast, InfoSum's VP, Corporate Marketing, Ben Cicchetti, sat down with Jayesh Rajdev, Controller of Advanced Advertising at ITV, to discuss CTV, retail media, innovation at ITV, streaming and linear audiences, his work with Media for All (MEFA), and much more.

“Back at the start of 2022, we did something quite different with how we ideate and innovate. We launched a collaboration and innovation platform called Ad Labs. And what we’ve done with Ad Labs is entirely overhaul our approach to ad innovation across all aspects of how we bring new addressable products or solutions to market and how we enable measurement.”

‘We are always in beta’ - we love that. In an ever-evolving industry, the only way to stay on top of industry defining trends is to embrace change through experimentation and learning. This ethos is true throughout ITV, and it wasn’t the only overhaul the company completed in 2022. It retired ITV Hub and launched ITVX, a brand new advertiser-funded, free-to-watch streaming service, designed to host significantly more content and deliver a superior experience for advertisers and consumers.

“I think it’s been received incredibly well by advertisers. But most importantly, it's been received incredibly well by audiences. And that's what advertisers really wanted to see more than anything. The ambition for ITVX at launch went way beyond just a mere upgrade to ITV Hub. [...] We're up to 40 million registered viewers on the platform. We have up to 20 million active in any one month”. 

Viewing habits have changed drastically over the last few years. Viewers now expect to watch their favorite shows on-demand when and where it suits them. CTV is now a critical part of TV planning for advertisers. But where does that leave linear? Are these high numbers of registered users coming at the detriment of linear viewership?

“What we're not seeing is that increase in streaming audience come at a significant impact to our linear numbers. So what we've shown, and what we are seeing, is viewers will still tune-in in their numbers to live linear.”

It’s interesting to see the role of TV evolving in real time. It’s not merely a choice for advertisers of whether they should put their budget into linear or streaming, but rather how the two can complement each other. 

Another hotly watched trend within the space is the convergence of Connected TV and retail media, two media channels rich in first-party data. To capitalize on this trend, ITV launched Matchmaker, a strategic collaboration with retailers Tesco and Boots, to bring the power of loyalty card data to ITVX.

“What I'm looking forward to in 2024, I think you know we've launched a bunch of different retail media solutions. [...] We're bringing the precision accuracy of retail loyalty card data to ITVX. [...] Brands drive mass reach really efficiently using TV to reach broad audiences, comprising a mix of people that buy the category, people that don't buy the category but one day might buy the category, to reaching customers of today and tomorrow, and what we're offering here is the opportunity to buy audiences who you know are in your category right now.”

Traditionally seen as a top-of-funnel brand awareness play, the convergence of Connected TV and retail media means TV has a versatile role to play throughout the funnel. The ability to leverage retailer data in TV campaigns means advertisers are able to bring accurate targeting and measurement to TV for performance marketing, while drastically reducing media spend wastage and making it easier to prove ROI. 

“We’ve run something like forty-odd campaigns in this sort of nine to ten months it’s been properly active, across both Boots and Tesco, and we’ve seen some really solid conversion lift numbers. What I think’s really interesting is that we’re seeing traction from a much wider variety of advertisers than originally envisaged. [...] Outside of FMCG, no categories are off the table. We’ve cast our net relatively wide from general merch, which I think is really interesting, consumer electronics, travel, finance, autos. We’re exploring a range of options right now.”

In addition to attracting non-endemic brands, the launch of Matchmaker is breaking down barriers for smaller brands as well, who in the past may have seen TV as out of reach. With the ability to leverage TV beyond a brand awareness play, advertising on CTV is an attractive proposition to get in front of their customers in a premium environment.

“Ordinarily, they might have looked at and not considered TV affordable. What they now have with Matchmaker is that efficient and effective entry point to advertising on ITV through ITVX. [...] And we’ve seen a number of those currently investing most of their media investment outside of TV, mostly in digital, again they now have the benefits of efficiency and a lower barrier to entry to advertising on TV through Matchmaker. All of which with the assurance that they’re reaching a known active category shopper.”

So, what’s next for ITVX and Matchmaker?

“We're very much prioritizing how we think about measuring the efficacy of TV and how we redefine that, particularly for longer purchase frequency categories within their supplier sets, and it's firmly in our roadmaps with both Boots and Tesco in 2024 to explore.”

Outside of his day job driving innovation across TV, Jayesh is committed to increasing diversity and inclusion across the wider media industry in his role as Head of Communications at Media For All (MEFA). Founded in 2017, it is a community run by media industry professionals volunteering their time to help fulfill MEFA’s mission of helping Black, Asian and ethnic minority talent thrive in the media and advertising industry.

“It's now an organization of over 1,000 professionals and in the industry [...]. What we're trying to fix is, we talk about our mission as recruit, retain, and rise. So, we find ways to encourage more Black, Asian, minority ethnic talent into the industry. Be that partner and that safe space for those within the industry with a view to hoping that you'll stay in the industry for longer, and finding ways to develop that talent within our industry. [...] The career trajectories of of people I've known from even five or six years ago and the satisfaction people are deriving from being part of MEFA is incredibly gratifying to be a part of. It's also quite an important place where significant issues that emerge, you know, in current affairs, people want to vent, people want to talk about this stuff.”

MEFA is an incredible organization spotlighting diverse voices within our industry, and we encourage all of our listeners to go and check them out. Membership is entirely free for Black, Asian and ethnic minority talent working in the media industry.

Thanks, Jayesh, for the chat!