cable tvYou know that iTV saying about how, in an ideal TV advertising world, ads for dog food would only be broadcast to households with dogs? Well, that may soon be the case in 500,000 homes in the New York City area.

Cablevision Systems is poised to announce the largest experiment to date in targeted television advertising, reports the New York Times. Homes in Brooklyn, the Bronx and parts of New Jersey are about to get ads based on data concerning their income, ethnicity, gender, or whether the household harbors children or pets.

The data come from market-leader Experian, which collects its information through public records, registries and other sources. It anonymously matches subscribers' name and addresses to what it knows about them, and assigns demographic characteristics to individual households.

Experian can also function as a sort of data-based matchmaker if advertisers supply them with their own customer data. So GM, for example, could advertise -- or not -- only to customers who already own one of their vehicles.

The potential accuracy of the targeting does raise questions. While the New York area has one of the world's largest concentrations of single-person households,Cablevision's experiment is being conducted in areas where multi-person homes are more common. So how do they know who's watching, and when? The targeting won't take into consideration what program's being watched, but dayparting may help resolve at least some of that problem.

Another data issue is churn. In a period of rampant and escalating unemployment, for example, will Experian's "household income" data be fresh and relevant? Or frequently updated? Churn is always an issue in data-land, but perhaps never more so than now.

Nevertheless, Cablevision is rolling out the new system, which requires no hard- or software upgrades on the consumer side, after running an eight month test of its own. The company claims its targeted ads drew significantly more subscriptions than untargeted ads.

Funny. Wouldn't you already have to be a Cablevision subscriber to see targeted ads on its system?

Rebecca Lieb

Published 4 March, 2009 by Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb oversees Econsultancy's North American operations.

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Comments (2)


Kedar Thakar

I agree with what you have said.  What would have been more interesting is to base ads on set-top box data - what programmes are matched, what days, what time of day, how frequently, etc.

You can make some conclusions on who is watching it - teenage girl/boy, adult male/female, etc.  This coupled with other demographic data would be much more useful.

Might help retention but as you said, not acquisition.

over 9 years ago


Rachel Burkot

This is interesting. I wonder why it wasn't done sooner. It seems like the most effective, accurate and revenue-generating way to advertise. As consumers, we're faced with so many advertisements each day that we tune them out because we automatically assume they don't have anything to do with us - because most don't. Now that they're more targeted, will they catch consumers' attention better? Do you think this form of advertising will work out? What are problems you anticipate?

over 9 years ago

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