The June 10 Wall Street Journal had an article about how six cable companies have developed new technology that will help advertisers better target TV watchers.
I think this is great news -- both as a marketer and as a TV watcher. If I'm going to spend money on TV as a marketing medium, I want to know that the people who will see my commercial are actually likely to buy my product. And if I'm going to spend any time in front of the tube, I'd prefer to see more relevant ads than the ones I'm watching now.
Here's what the Journal suggests is the downside:
Something that may concern programmers -- and damp enthusiasm: Because targeted advertising theoretically offers more bang for the marketing buck, advertisers may end up reducing their overall cable spend.
I honestly hope this doesn't damp enthusiasm. If it does, it's short-sighted on the part of the programmers.
First of all, marketers ought to pay more for a targeted audience on a CPM basis. This is how it's been done in direct marketing forever. Smaller, more exclusive lists -- whether mail or email -- cost more per name. On a cost-per-impression basis, direct mail could never compete with broadcast. It's not about the costs so much as it's about the return on investment and the net profit you make from a campaign.
But, second, I see this as an opportunity for cable companies to keep their audience -- the audience that's turning to the Internet for entertainment -- and perhaps turn the cable medium into something different from broadcast TV. Perhaps, with targeted audiences and higher prices, cable companies can provide more entertainment with fewer commercials than the big networks. The argument for higher prices would get marketers both a tighter audience and more attention. Without ten or twelve other commercials in every pod, your ad will stand out more.
Wouldn't this be a win-win-win for cable companies, advertisers and the cable TV audience?
Even as I write this, I know it won't happen. There's just too much fear and greed locking us into the current system. But I can dream.