Programmatic Coming To A Living Room Near You

by , Nov 18, 2013, 1:47 PM
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Extending the programmatic ad platform from online display to create addressable TV ads has been one of the industry’s pet fantasies since I started covering it back in 2001. It always segued into that other longstanding living room dream: interactive TV. 

Well the hardware is pretty much here. The new generation of set-top and cable boxes are full-blown, connected computers sitting beneath the TV screen. Big data mashers are coming online that no doubt could render all of those remote control clicks into fascinating new affinity maps of people’s tastes, proclivities and clicker habits. Some, like the newest gaming consoles, even have motion detection on board that can recognize specific faces present in the room. Talk about a people meter.

And of course we already have the programmatic trading and targeting of digital video advertising well along from the Web world. The pieces are waiting to be put together.

Comcast apparently will be taking a big leap in this direction with its first attempt to target ads to specific households within linear programming. Targeting of this sort has gone on for a while in the on-demand space, which of course has fewer insertion points and complexity to manage. But in this next stage, the Comcast advertiser will be able to target spots according to household demographics. Perhaps it isn’t the one-to-one addressable media some have promised all along, but it is a start.

Comcast VP Andrew Ward told FierceCable last week that a trial will start this quarter so that the platform will be in place next year. The company plans to use ad tech from Invidi for the program. In addition to targeting ads to households, the platform will let Comcast use some of the locally available TV inventory to sell additional Comcast services to its own customers. So, for instance, Comcast could use the system to target ads for specific services like home security to customers who have not yet ordered that service.

One of the more interesting tidbits in Ward’s interview involved multiple screens. The master plan is to have Comcast send ads not only to linear TV programming but also to tablets and other devices using IP within the home. Clearly Comcast is aiming to get a piece of the emerging second-screen experiences.

But it will be interesting to see how the company tries to insinuate itself into the other IP nooks and crannies that come from an explosion of connected devices and hardware. MSOs struggled for years to avoid becoming the big fat broadband pipes they eventually became. One wonders if the emergence of the all-powerful and important home WiFi network is another way MSOs hope to get back into the digital ad and e-commerce ecosystem. The company is already targeting ads to the tablet apps its customers use to control the newest digital cable boxes.

Behind all this is data, both homegrown and third party. Ward says the company is building a database that cross-references the names and addresses of the Comcast households against third-party credit data, as well as public census data on likely attributes.

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