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Targeting TVs: Different Ad Strokes for Different Folks

11 Jun, 2001 By: Hive News

Betting that consumers will embrace it as a convenience rather than as a high tech form of home invasion, cable and satellite companies are deploying new technologythat will allow them to target different TV commercials to different homes based on the occupants' age, gender, ethnicity, income and other personal details, including the shows they watch, according to Monday's Los Angeles Times.

For instance, of two households watching "West Wing" at the same time, one with young parents will see an ad for Pampers, while one with retirees sees one about Fixodent. Wealthy homeowners might get ads for Nordstrom, while lower-income renters see commercials for Wal-Mart. Chevrolet could hawk Corvettes to single men andSUVs to families.

Companies hope to refine the technology to eventually target different viewers in the same family, sending ads for PlayStation 2 to theteen's room while steering the life insurance pitch to the parents in the den.

AT&T, the nation's biggest cable operator, plans totest "addressable advertising" this fall on 30,000 customers in Aurora, Colo., who have upgraded todigital cable, which makes the targeting technologypossible, reports the Times.

Other cable and satellite firms, including Cox Communications and Time Warner, are expected tofollow with their own pilots. Software developers predict large-scale roll-outs of targeted TV ads could begin next spring.

As an incentive to sign up, consumers might be offered product discounts and coupons in exchange for information about their buying habits.

Los Angeles-based Adlink,which is developing addressable advertising in Southern California, already allows advertisers to target individual neighborhoods. It helped S.C. Johnson Wax send TV ads for flea and tick spray to Southern California beach communities at the same time that it was airing ant and roach commercials in urban areas, the Times said. Some companies may offer additional incentives, such as monthly rebates or premium channels, to those who sign up.

Addressable advertising has been the target of cable for years, aiming to combine the reach of TV with the precision of direct marketing and the responsiveness of the Internet. Cable companies hopeadvertisers will pay more to reach a targeted household than a random one.

With the emergence of interactive TV, viewers may one day log on to their sets, like computers, and preset preferences for shows they want to watch and ads they prefer -- that is, if they prefer any at all.

The targeting technology is made possible by digital cable, which allows viewers to receive up to four times as many channels as on most current systems. The upgraded system also includes a bigger return path within the cable, allowing for more interactive features. So far, about 10 million households have upgraded to digital cable, and operators expect the numbers to keep climbing.

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