Political campaigns using TV ads to target specific households

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WASHINGTON — The days when political campaigns and business would try to make inroads with demographic groups such as soccer moms are gone. Now, the operatives are targeting specific individuals.

And, in some places, they can reach those individuals directly through their televisions.

Welcome to Addressable TV, an emerging technology that allows advertisers — Senate hopefuls and insurance companies alike — to pay some broadcasters to pinpoint specific homes.

Advertisers have long bought ads knowing that only a fraction of the audience was likely to respond to them. Allowing campaigns — political or not — to finely hone their TV pitches to individuals could let them more efficiently spend their advertising dollars.

“With a traditional TV buy you can end up paying for a lot of eyeballs you don’t care about,” said Chauncey McLean, chief operating officer of the Analytics Media Group, an ad and data firm. “Addressable TV is a powerful tool for those that are equipped to use it. If you know who you want to talk to and what you want to say, you can be much more precise.”

Data geeks look at everything from voting histories to demographics, magazine subscriptions to credit scores, all in the hopes of identifying their target audience. The advertiser then hands over a list of targets and, without the viewer necessarily realizing it, the ads pop on when viewers sit down to watch a program -- if their broadcaster has the technology.

“This is the power of a 30-second television commercial with the precision of a piece of direct mail targeted to the individual household level,” said Paul Guyardo, chief revenue officer at DirecTV. “Never before have advertisers had that level of precision when it came to a 30-second commercial.”

Earlier this year, DirecTV and Dish Network announced a partnership that would allow political clients to reach into about 20 million households by matching up customers’ identities with their satellite receiver.

At the same time, NBC and parent company Comcast are opening the door for advertisers to target specific households using video-on-demand services in 20 million more households. The communications giant is not yet ready to implement the targeting during live broadcasts, though.

“We can send different commercials to different households based on what we know about these people. Instead of one message per state, it could be 12 messages per state,” said Michael Bologna, GroupM’s director of emerging communications and president of the newly formed Modi Media.

But there are limits. Fewer than half of all households have a cable box or satellite receiver that allows the broadcasters to splice in ads on some televisions and not others.

The providers are limited to selling about two minutes of addressable advertising per hour.


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