Interview with Neil Mortensen
Neil Mortensen is Director of Audiences, ITVplc where he has responsibility for ITV’s research and planning teams and sits on the BARB board. He is a long-standing member of the MRS and MRG and is a past chairman. Neil is also an Honorary Fellow of the IPA. Neil (in his second spell at ITV) has responsibility for research across the company, from advertising effectiveness to programme development.
Prior to joining ITV in January 2015, Mortensen was Research & Planning Director at Thinkbox, and previously Research Director of OPera OMG UK, providing information and research to create value in the Omnicom group across all media.
Neil will be joining us to speak at our Industry Insights event with STV on April 19. Bookings for this event are now open.
Can you tell us about your role as Director of Audiences? What are your main priorities?
Of course I think I have the best job in media but I’m sure that lots of other people would say the same about their roles. My team acts as the voice of the audience for ITV, helping programme makers, schedulers, commissioners, creative, online, marketers, strategists, press, corporate and the commercial teams in ITV to understand our audiences better, contributing to both the creative health and financial of health of the business. So It may sound a bit clichéd but every day is really different and I am lucky enough to be able to work a huge variety of people across the business.
At the moment I am focussed on the ITV strategy refresh process. Outside of that I’m working with my teams on lots of programme develop and a fair slug of measurement issues around our programmes and brands.
What have been the most interesting projects you’ve worked on during your time at ITV?
That’s a tough question. If I had to pick one recent thing that has given me the most satisfaction then it would be our Factual Labs project, more commonly known internally as The Dragon’s Den. This is because the process last time finished up with our Studios development teams pitching programme ideas to our audience at the Dragon’s Den Studio. This innovative programme development process has revolutionised the way our commissioning and studios teams view research. It puts the viewer at the heart of the development process and joins all parts of the programme production cycle together to produce the best ideas. It has already produced three green lit commissioned shows and has established a great platform for other genres - the next project already has 12 production companies signed up.
Your job involves analysing viewer behaviours and how well your channels and programmes perform. What are the biggest challenges faced by broadcasters today?
Another big question! One of my big challenges is measuring the total programme performance or footprint of each show. Audiences of all ages are not just embracing new platforms, they are demanding them; the ITV Hub is on 30 platforms with different benefits, a variety of screen sizes and portability and we’ve got over 21m registered users on the service as well as 10m downloads of companion apps for our biggest shows. All Broadcasters have unique and numerous opportunities to capture data about the interactions with their audience/customers.
ITV is becoming increasingly data rich as it moves its shows online, leverages social media, deploys apps and other interactive solutions as well as exploring advanced advertising technology. It is an unmissable opportunity to enhance, even potentially to revolutionise, our understanding of audiences, consumers and their interactions with brands and messages. For example, online viewing through the ITV Hub is really important to many of our shows and as we match our registered user data with Hub viewing we can get really granular detail on who is watching online. This is where things get really interesting as we can start to hyper target audiences for advertisers and for marketing our new shows.
Since you started in your role 3 years ago. How has your role developed and why?
This is my second time at ITV and things have changed dramatically. These days there is an understanding at ITV (along with most modern media corporations) that insight into your customers is vital in driving the financial and creative health of the business. This is great for me and the team as it means we play an important role within the business. We act as enablers for the various business unit strategies across the business and now offer a full research service. We have had to develop all sorts of new skills and so this is another change. A modern research team now has; Mathematicians, Statisticians, Market Researchers, Data analysts, Marketing and Advertising Effectiveness experts, Brand strategists, Trend Spotters and cultural insight gurus. I could go on!
And finally, do you watch a lot of TV at home? What’s your favourite programme?
No I don’t watch any TV at all. As if…
Yes, I have to watch lots of TV. Some for pleasure and lots for my job. I watch more than the average person (in my demo and geography). My favourite programme is Saturday Night Takeaway – it is a rare piece of TV. It is genius. It is the happiest moment of the week for me and the family. At the moment I am also enjoying “This Country” – a comedy on BBC3 created by, written by and starring siblings Daisy May and Charlie Cooper.