Advanced Advertising: Obama Campaign Showed Value Of Targeting Viewers

Panel Says Win Demonstrated Advances In Reaching Audiences Efficiently
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The Obama campaign’s “micro-targeting” of voter groups through TV advertising gave some ad-sales and technology executives a springboard to tout advances in addressing messages to groups or individuals.

Joan Hogan Gillman, president of Time Warner Cable Media, cited an Obama official’s statement in Timeon Nov. 7 that the re-election effort was 14% more efficient in buying TV ads reaching “persuadable” voters than the 2008 campaign was.

That’s because of databases with demographic breakdowns of the audiences for shows on television, by geographic market, Gillman noted. The New York Times also had a story on Tuesday about the Obama campaign’s use of data to decide what cable shows to buy, including reruns on TV Land watched by “folks who may not be as political,” as an official said in that story.

In a panel discussion on Tuesday, Gillman and Kevin Smith, group vice president at Comcast Spotlight, touted cable, satellite and telco capabilities to target ads to groups by viewer profiles and neighborhoods. Comcast, for example, has divided its 20 million subscribers into about 600 “zones,” Smith said.

On the same panel, Steve Silvestri, director of advanced advertising sales at DirecTV, advocated satellite TV’s work on addressable advertising based on set-top box impressions. The satellite TV provider now has an addressable base of about 11 million DirecTV homes, a figure that grows with each new customer who gets a DVR.

“We want to get down to the household level, and that’s exactly what we can do today and that’s exactly what we are doing,” Silvestri said.

Using an example that panel moderator Todd Spangler cited, Silvestri said DirecTV would target dog-food ads to dog owners, cat-food ads to cat owners and, to a home nearby with three kids, a minivan ad.

“Zone targeting has been around for a long time,” said George Shababb, president of Kantar Media Audiences North America, which is working with DirecTV. “What we’re talking about now is taking it to the next level, and actually delivering against households.”

Early customers for DirecTV's and Dish Network's household-addressable technology include Allstate. DirecTV also sells advertising time in conjunction with Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications, via NCC Media, a separate project not connected to the household-addressable ad sales, Silvestri said.

Gillman said that even when household addressability is available on a wide scale -- and Smith said that kind of scale will be years in coming -- it probably won’t attract more than 5% to 10% of TV ad buys.

Most brands will prefer to target consumer segments by such characteristics as income and gender, using improved measurement to judge the returns, she said.

Gillman, Smith and panelist Bill Livek, CEO of measurement firm Rentrak, urged advertisers to get involved in addressable and interactive advertising campaigns now and learn ways to reach potential consumers more efficiently. Especially with consumers still feeling uncertain and marketers wanting to reach buyers without spending more.

“These advanced targeting platforms -- the time, I believe, is this time, because the economy is compatible with these platforms that exist in cable, satellite and telco,” Livek said.

Comcast has conducted addressable-advertising technology, including a Baltimore market test that involved 60,000 homes, and plans more extensive testing. Smith said Comcast believes in addressable advertising -- most important, to sell cable products more effectively. Homes already getting cable, phone and Internet could stop seeing triple-play bundle ads and instead see promos for Comcast’s home-security offering, he said.

"We buy into this -- it is going to happen," Smith said.

Silvestri said DirecTV has seen results internally by targeting messages for pay-per-view events, but said he was not able to disclose specifics.

The panel was part of the Tuesday’s advanced-advertising event put on by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable.