By Hannah Bowler, Senior Reporter

March 1, 2024 | 6 min read

Branded entertainment lead Sophie Lloyd explains how a raft of brands are co-creating contextual campaigns with the UK broadcaster’s sales arm.

Channel 4 has unveiled a set of ads from brands, including Clarins and TikTok, that are exclusive to its platform. The contextually relevant ads have been developed by Channel 4’s creative sales unit.

The first to be released is ‘Your Skin Doesn’t Need The Drama’ from Clarins, which debuts today (March 1) and stars Made in Chelsea’s Liv Bentley. The 40-second video features Bentley in need of beauty products to mask her tired skin after all the drama that unfolded on the reality show the night before. Channel 4 will schedule the ad around Made in Chelsea and other reality shows.

Margot Bowman directed the ad while Channel 4 produced it with support from Sassy Films.

TikTok, meanwhile, tasked Channel 4 to develop the ‘It Starts with a TikTok’ campaign that the social app launched at the end of 2023. The result is a series of ads where TikTok creators give ideas to Channel 4 talent on how to add value to their lives. For example, Formula One presenter Steve Jones is looking to learn new golf skills and presenter Anita Rani is after some interior design tips. The three ads will be released on TikTok from April 14.

The final ads are for the Department for Education and are part of the government’s Skills for Life campaign. Three 30-second spots feature The Great British Bake Off contestant Liam Charles, who acts as an inner voice motivating the audience to think about their education and training. The ads will be placed contextually around Channel 4 shows so Charles will be engaging with the content.

Channel 4’s creative sales team is behind the campaigns. The broadcaster opened the unit in 2020 and hired Mother’s former creative head of brand experience, Sophie Lloyd, to run it as the branded entertainment lead.

Lloyd says: “It’s all about how brands can connect to our audience and almost lean on Channel 4 as a trusted brand and speak to a different audience in a more human way.”

In its four years, the Channel 4 creative sales unit has seen success stories such as the John Lewis and Gogglebox partnership that increased 77% brand consideration and its co-branded Benenden Health campaign in 2022 that saw a 44% uplift in viewers checking in on their health.

How does the creative sales unit work?

Llyod and her team take direct pitches from brands and media agencies, as well as proactively reaching out to the industry. When taking pitches from advertisers, Lloyd says her team will “robustly triage all briefs to get the most relevant information.” She admits that, often, Channel 4 will push back until the advertiser and the broadcaster are better aligned.

“We try to understand what the advertiser is after and come up with the best solution to that brief, be it a branded entertainment series or a linear contextual ad or a complete platform solution.” Lloyd reveals to The Drum that she often likes to sneak in a “wild card” option to try and push the advertiser to think a bit differently.

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On proactive projects, the creative sales team will coordinate with the scheduling department to find upcoming programming that could be spun into a commercial opportunity. “We look at the schedule and say, right, this looks like it could be a really interesting show coming up in six months; let’s think about how we can proactively go to market and sell that to a brand.” Channel 4 shows such as Married at First Sight, The Great British Bake Off and Gogglebox are all formats ripe for advertisers, she suggests.

Then there are the major Channel 4 initiatives such as the Paralympics, its diversity event Black to Front and its sustainability programming agenda, which the team will be looking to find advertisers to partner with.

The creative sales unit works alongside Channel 4’s in-house creative team, 4Creative, its in-house sales team, 4Sales, and its data and insights team. It is Lloyd’s job to unite all of those functions around the one brief.

“It means connecting the talent around Channel 4 and making sure we are using it. We have this amazing insights team, for example, but before, we weren’t using it as well as we could have been and we do that now. We are still a new team with so much potential and promise and we are only now at the start of what we can do.”

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