It’s an exciting time for broadcasters as they start to get to grips with the technology that allows the targeting of TV ads to individual households. Take Sky AdSmart as an example: Through careful manipulation of data that exists on a household eg Sky subscription, geo-demographics, shopping behaviour, but not viewing data, a unique set of ads could be broadcast straight to an individual’s set-top box. It could potentially mean that two TVs in the same household on the same channel could have different ads shown at the same time. It is also a big opportunity for local advertisers to use TV. The technology is here already and although it is an investment-heavy project, it is looking to launch into the market at some point in 2013.
One may query of course whether we, as an industry, can be certain that the increased targeting of advertising is going to be attractive to consumers in the future? There may well be some people who say that just because I did a few searches for a new smartphone last week, it does not mean that I want to see adverts for them this week. If I made my decision and bought one at the weekend, I'm just going to find the ad annoying. We're already seeing tech savvy users blocking commercials, and the mainstream won't be far behind.
Perhaps the industry is eventually going to have to move towards a model where the consumer actively chooses their advertising rather than having it thrust upon them - in much the same way that a reader may choose to buy a glossy magazine as much for its advertising as for its editorial.
Technologies are advancing at a rapid rate that may enable more powerful interaction with consumers. For example, we're already starting to get used to product placement on our television screens - but what if at the same time the programme was being shown on the main channel, an interactive stream relating to that placement was available on a second screen device? The Shazam idea is not too far removed from this already.
Whatever the future for targeted ads, the challenge for audience measurement specialists is to harness the benefits of not just research, but also data and technology in this constantly changing digital world – giving us a new meaning I guess to ‘catch-up TV’.
John Carroll is Senior Director of Ipsos MediaCT and Chair of the Media Research Group