What to do with spare TV ad inventory

18.12, Friday 19 Feb 2021

I’ve recently been watching a TV comedy show called Taskmaster, about 6 years after everyone else was into it. (I don’t watch much TV. I don’t much enjoy anything tense or violent, and besides after about 10 minutes I’ve usually run out of attention. So if there’s a show I think I could be into, I watch the first episode or two to get a sense of the narrative space then finish it by reading the season summaries on Wikipedia.)

Anyway so I’m watching this particular show on an ad-supported streaming app, and it’s old enough that often nobody has bothered to buy the ads. When that happens, the commercial breaks are empty and it just skips to the next segment.

Which is kinda good but also kind of a pain because it means that my wife and I lack a natural Schelling Point to go pee, fetch snacks, etc.

Ben Terrett (who has a blog) suggested I should buy the ads myself. I haven’t done that. But I wonder…

UKTV streaming TV ad sales are handled by 4Sales who offer some interesting products.

For instance here’s BRANDM4TCH. Advertisers upload their own user list, and only those users see the ad. I’m guessing this is how I saw an spot the other day for [redacted] that specifically called out it was only visible to their customers.

And some other interesting ad products:

Personalised enables advertisers to use All 4 data to individually address users by name. We take viewers privacy very seriously and viewers have the option to opt out of this.


Dynamic enables advertisers to dynamically alter creative using different data points e.g. time of day, demo, location or the weather.

So perhaps I could buy a TV ad targeted just at me, and generate the content on the fly.

Like, maybe it could be a list of upcoming birthdays of family and friends. That would be useful to encounter ambiently in the evening, like the calendar on the fridge but in my front room.

Maybe a little in-show water cooler moment? Some way of me checking in to say “hey I liked this show and I was here,” and it only shows up to people I know on Twitter or Facebook or whatever, then we can talk later.

Or perhaps something lazy: a TV ad that shows just a big QR code that, when scanned, opens the takeaway app on my phone.

When I was a kid, I used to make and sell fanzines. They were terrible but most of my friends would have a copy hanging around.

So one issue I printed the entire takeaway menu of the local kebab and chips delivery shop - this is before the internet clearly, and also before cholesterol awareness - so it would always be handy late at night, whoever’s place we ended up at.

For me that is still the highpoint of what ads can be, and also pretty much what I would do if I awoke one morning and found myself transformed into a newspaper oligarch.

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