Audience Targeting Changes TV Advertising

The ability to target a specific audience on TV like you would target a specific audience in digital seemed like a fantasy just a few years ago. But today, we hear a lot of buzz around TV audience targeting. Whether it is called “Addressable,” “Audience Targeting” or “Programmatic,” it signals a change in the way TV advertising is being targeted and bought.

This evolution will deliver valuable capabilities that marketers have come to expect as table-stakes in the digital advertising world. When it comes to TV, for years marketers have relied on antiquated ratings systems with only general age and gender information to guide their buying decisions, but not anymore.

Given TV’s continued prominence as an advertising platform, marketers should explore new, advanced TV advertising capabilities that deliver stronger ROI for their clients and help them stay ahead of their competitors. 

Today, there are three primary ways to execute targeted TV buying:

  • Addressable: Targeting a specific ad to a specific household. This has become a viable option for some marketers, but it still has limitations when it comes to scale (only approximately 20MM HH’s today) and delivering a specific audience (since HH’s are often made up of multiple people). However, this technology will only improve over time and will be a game-changer in the coming years. 
  • Programmatic: Using machine-driven technology to dynamically insert ads in real-time.While programmatic has changed the way digital advertising is being bought today, agencies are having trouble applying the same automation to TV buying. Limited quality inventory and scale have hampered adoption, and it probably will be quite a while before linear, programmatic TV buying becomes a viable, scaled alternative.
  • Data Optimized, Targeted TV Advertising: This option appears to have the most scale and inventory availability today. Using anonymous and aggregate set-top box viewership data, companies are able to profile audiences and deliver media schedules that reach those target audiences in the programming they watch most frequently.By targeting the programming and not just the household, this option helps solve for the “who in the household is actually watching?” dilemma that Addressable TV currently faces. 



Marketers should no longer feel stuck buying TV advertising based solely on age and gender. Given the capabilities of advanced TV audience targeting, marketers should think about how to further segment a broad target audience in order to reach their best potential consumer.

Media plans today can easily be optimized beyond just age and gender. For example, go beyond men ages 25-54, and also include income level, purchasing habits, general interests, etc. Marketers should consider all consumer information available about their target audience, allowing them to leverage that data in targeting their advanced TV media buys.

So where do we go from here? I encourage you to question the way you have traditionally bought television, and to embrace the new targeting capabilities that exist in the marketplace today. 

Will digital targeting capabilities make their way to TV? Yes, they already have and audience targeting is here to stay.

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