MIPDoc 2012: Gee discusses “quid pro quo” of using viewer data

Channel 4 cross-platform commissioning editor for factual Adam Gee (pictured) used his Commissioning 360 Keynote at MIPDoc to discuss "the quid pro quo" that lies at the heart of using viewer's personal data for interactive projects, explaining the dos and don'ts producers should be cognizant of.
April 1, 2012

Channel 4 (C4) cross-platform commissioning editor for factual Adam Gee (pictured) used his Commissioning 360 Keynote at MIPDoc in Cannes to discuss “the quid pro quo” that lies at the heart of using viewer’s personal data for interactive projects, explaining the dos and don’ts producers should be cognizant of.

Using case studies of three of the UK network’s different projects, Gee said that personal data about “things like weight and ethnicity are not things that people part with easily.” However, if programs can provide a service which fulfils a basic need or passionate desire for the viewer, “they won’t just part with their data, but they’ll part with their data happily.”

Smart use of data presents an opportunity to “reinvent advertising,” he added, while talking about the opportunities of combining data and campaigning.

In the first case study, Gee showed clips from the live and interactive version of popular Channel 4 show Embarrassing Bodies Live, in which viewers were able to present embarrassing illnesses to medical experts online, for real-time, broadcast diagnosis.

In the second case study, he presented The Sexperience 1000, and interactive online microsite project that presented information about sexual habits across the UK in an entertaining way – “turning the dry area of data into a form of entertainment,” as Gee put it.

“Data visualization is full of clich├ęs,” he said. “We wanted to liven it up, shake it, and make it fun again.”

The final case study looked at Hugh’s Fish Fight and the Fish Fight campaign, which in just two days saw 137,000 Tweets sent to politicians in Brussels to demand action on friendly fishing initiatives.

Each of the interactive programs fulfilled a user need or want for the viewer, Gee said, resulting in them being happy to part with private information. With Embarrassing Bodies, “staying healthy is a basic user need,” so viewers were okay with revealing sensitive information.

The Sexperience 1000, meanwhile, fulfilled a human want. “People want to know what’s normal in that realm,” Gee explained. Finally, the Fish Fight campaign fulfilled “a different kind of want.”

After seeing the TV series, many viewers felt very angry about the thousands of fish being needlessly killed. “It brings about emotion very quickly,” he said. As such, they took to the online site and to Twitter to sign a mass petition because there was a real need “to want to save fish for the future.”

Gee concluded that C4 under CEO David Abraham is shaping itself to be “a modern broadcast network fit for the future.”

As such, producers looking to work with it in the interactive realm should ask themselves: “What am I bringing to this project that’s more than the TV show and social media that people are already using?”

About The Author
Jillian Morgan is the Associate Editor at Realscreen with a background in journalism and digital marketing. She joined the publication in 2019 after serving as the assistant editor to trade publications HPAC and On-Site. With a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax, she also works as a freelance writer and fact-checker.