How Do Consumers Have Control With Targeted TV?

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April 14, 2011 – 12:02 am

One QuestionOften, a question doesn't have an easy answer in the digital advertising business. This is  column devoted to an answer to a single question - and providing a bit of space for it.

Cordie DePascale is VP of Product for MediaBank, a digital software systems company for the advertising industry. He recently answered the following question during a conversation with TVexchanger.com...

TVexchanger.com:   How do consumers have control with targeted TV?

CDP: Targeted TV is sort of like democracy. Nobody asks you if you want the choices you start out with. But if you voice your opinions often enough, the world starts looking the way you want it to. And the more control everyone takes, the better it works for everyone.

The same goes for targeted TV, especially around Request For Information (RFI) ads. You vote with your remote to tell the advertiser, and the network, if an ad is relevant. That kind of information lets everyone know what types of ads to serve up to you down the road—and what kinds of ads you don’t think are relevant. Once the system understands your ad preferences well enough, you won’t be subjected to an experience that’s cluttered with the annoying ads that you don't want to see, and you might get more of the ads that you do want to see. The ads become more relevant.

It’s a little like the Netflix model: you decide the kinds of movies you like, and the algorithm decides what recommendations to share with you based on your interest. You’re not actively telling the system, “Give me these kinds of films”—but your ratings of the movies you’ve seen tells Netflix what kinds of movies to suggest to you. Eventually, your decisions let the algorithm know your interests well enough to be an extension of you, or something like to it.

What makes this really exciting is that TV will only live in its own silo for so long. Ultimately, the feedback you offer the TV box will be registered along every other channel—mobile device, radio, website (or whatever the website becomes). The feedback you set for TV become the parameters you set for your 360˚ media experience (and the parameters you set for other channels positively impact your TV viewing). It’s a great virtuous cycle.

Not that I think we need, or even want, to give consumers or advertisers total targeting control. First, there’s privacy concerns: we want to create tracking mechanisms in ways that create personally relevant content without, actually identifying users or their personal information. Ultimately, that will have to mean giving up on some targeting capability in the name of privacy. It will also mean creating more open channels of communication with consumers about how their data is being used.

But there’s reasons beyond just privacy that makes it valuable to let up on targeting every now and then. Today’s broadcast TV viewers—even the youngest ones—have grown up with the clutter of stuff that just doesn't relate to their needs. They’re comfortable with advertising they haven’t requested. And while a lot of that “off-target” messaging gets filtered out, a lot of viewers end up liking those middle‑of‑the‑road messages they never dreamt they’d get. Maybe not as much as the things they’ve set out to look for, but enough to make a purchase down the road. And it’s often those middle-of-the-road connections that let advertisers expand their market.

So even when we do get to “hypertargeting” of a “Minority Report” future, we still don’t necessarily want to completely rule out the old-fashioned reach plays. For all the control advertisers and consumers get, it’s still good for everyone to let go of the wheel, or the remote, every now and again, and see what kinds of opportunities chance might bring you - just like in life.

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April 14, 2011 – 12:02 am

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