Content is king? “Nonsense,” says 4th Screen Advertising’s Peter Birch.

Man sitting on a sofa watching tv with hands folded behind his head

There’s nothing worse than bad product placement, with companies spending zillions on their image and to be seen in the right places.

Niki Waldegrave
Posted by Niki Waldegrave

But Peter Birch (pictured below), managing director of 4th Screen Advertising at Mobile Embrace, says the same amount of thought isn’t going into spend on mobile phones and is urging brands to check where their adverts are running or risk egg on their face.


“Everyone in the digital world says, ‘content is king’, “ he told B&T. “Well, that’s nonsense. Good content is king, and there is a difference between good and bad content. Just being transparent to advertisers saying, ‘here is a long list of publishers that I represent on my network,’ is one thing, but transparency doesn’t equal quality.

“Lots of agencies look at that and then go, ‘oh, it’s transparent. It must be brand safe’ but I would imagine if you’re spending on MCN you don’t just send them your TVC and say, ‘run it where you like.’ You send your TVC to MCN in the hope that they will put it in contextually relevant premium environments.”

And never mind companies ending up with egg on their face – one unfortunate company has its brand stamped all over a fart app, and Birch says that unless brands use custom audience creation methodology like his company’s premium audience targeting (PAT), the results can be more stinker than success.

“It’s called premium audience targeting,” he explained, “because you get to run in premium, contextual environments, but can also leverage that data targeting.

“In the case of this burger chain, yes it’s all good fun and the app is designed for 14-18-year-olds but I’m pretty sure this brand’s core message wasn’t, ‘eat my burger and break wind.’”

He says PAT is designed for brand advertisers who want to know where their ads are running and explains, “if you just sell audiences, advertisers, especially brands like Coke and Google still want to know where they’re ads are running.

“You can’t just run it across some blind network and if you just buy audiences, your ad can still appear in environments that perhaps you wouldn’t to go in.”

Birch says PAT can refine audiences with behavioural insights, accelerate into real time with measurement strategies, and still at the same time be transparent about where the ads are running and privacy.

“I guess through those four core activities advertisers can build audiences, so they’re homing in on a very specific subset of consumers that will ultimately be most receptive to that ad message of their campaign.

“We’re still trying to encourage mobile spend, but I think this is true with mobile as anywhere, whether that be TV or posters. For me, the important thing here is that brand advertisers still need to ask a very valuable question: ‘where are my ads going to run?’”

Surprisingly, Birch also claims ad blocking could be a good thing for the industry, claiming publishers that run intrusive adverts “have more ads than they do content”.

He said: “They will find it harder, but that’s a good thing – it’s almost like a cleansing opportunity.

“We sell for the likes of the BBC, the Guardian and Bauer. All of their ads are contextually relevant to that user, are engaging and creative.

“I don’t find those intrusive and, as a consumer, I understand that if I want to get quality content it needs to have advertising in it. The whole ad blocking thing, what publishers could do is they could turn around and say, ‘look, we know you’ve got ad blocking software on your phone, therefore you can’t access our content.’

“It can work both ways. For me, some of this helps to encourage the responsible serving of ads, making sure that those ads are creatively engaging and well targeted, and that’s got to be a wonderful thing.”