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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Addressable TV Ads: Your TV May Be Watching You

Advertisers now have the ability to target their TV ads to specific households, based on customer data. (AP/Ann Heisenfelt)

Marketers have hit upon the Holy Grail of advertising: addressable TV ads. That means two people watching the same show, but in different homes, will see two different ads.

Allstate insurance is the first company to roll out addressable ads with a commercial for renter’s insurance. If all goes as planned, the ad will only only appear on the sets of people who rent their homes.

But how does your TV know how to target you?

Allstate combines consumer data available from firms like Experian and Epsilon with subscriber information from DirecTV and the Dish Network. Right now, the two satellite providers are the only ones offering the service.

This type of targeted advertising has been around on the web for years. But unlike web tracking, which records data from a specific computer’s IP address, addressable ads are using data about a specific person.

Satellite providers are sending content to a customer’s home address, and then sharing that information with data aggregation companies, which is much more personal.

This type of targeted advertising could raise concerns about privacy.

But Here & Now media expert John Carroll says this technology is still in its infancy, so it probably won’t gain the attention of regulators until it goes mainstream.


  • John Carroll,  Here & Now‘s media analyst and Boston University mass communication professor. His blog is Campaign Outsider.

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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