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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.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Dwayne Marlborough

    Understand that technology follows money, but wouldn’t it be great if instead of Advertising, this technology and sociological knowledge were used to, say, target lessons to special needs students more effectively.( Just a naive wish I suppose.)

    • Pointpanic

      Yeah, I’m afraid it is, Dwayne. Do you think “Public” radio will ever conduct any critical inquiry into what advertising is in a democracy?

  • Dan

    Addressable advertising will face a class action law suit within 5 years of a wide reaching roll out.  Think about bringing a date home and having all that directed advertising coming up on the TV while you’re both watching….. Hm.

  • Pointpanic

    More product plugging on a “public” radio segment. I rememebr when WBUR took pride in broadcasting “everything but commercials”. how sad that ‘BUR can’t honestly make that claim today.

  • Guest

    brainwashing americans 2.0

  • Krista

    There were references in this show to targeting from your credit cards. Are our credit card transactions data mined and shared? If anyone has information please reply and direct me to informational sources.  Thank you.

  • Smitys

    What’s interesting is that when I have received some kind of ‘addressed’ advertising, it’s usually wrong.  The coupons that I receive at the check out at the grocery are never products I actually buy.  Supposedly the coupons are based on what I just bought, but they’re not. Also, when I get a category from Netflix, for instance, that says something like, “Based on your interest in ‘Star Trek’, you may like ’30 Rock’ “.  The computer algorithm used for these selections  is way off. 

    I have my doubts that my life will be enriched by targeted advertising.  I usually blow it all off anyway.  Surely I can’t be the only person who ignores advertising’s attempts to grab my attention.

  • Dedewilliams

    Have these satellite provides like DirectTV just recently made available these customer lists?  What was keeping them from releasing these before?  Cable companies too.  Is it new technology in the TV that enables this addressing, the same thing that allows the TV to be a visible device on a home network?

    I imagine there is an “opt-out” for customers to prevent their information from being shared?

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