Digital enima

enema-bagAdvertising has been one of the biggest crap shoots ever invented by mankind. Billions of dollars have been spent on advertising, often under the false pretense that messages were accurately injected into the mind of a perfectly quarantined target audience. Sorry, not true.

But that dream, of slicing and dicing the audience into clearly defined bits for precise targeting will become more and more real as the technology improves and the public becomes less concerned with privacy issues.

Take for example my former employer, Cablevision Systems’ new targeting technology. When I left Cablevision, the big thing was being able to “zone” our output to specific slices of the New York, New Jersey market. We could show one commercial to one zip code, and another to another.

Now though Cablevision is trying to peer back though the looking glass. The new technology requires no hardware, but relies on household profile information to deliver specific ads to specific viewers. Will we know whether the daddy target or the child target is in the room? No, but that day is coming too. Just give ’em time.

This is being rolled out to 500,000 homes in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and New Jersey. The goal will be to eventually give all 3.1-million of its subscribers this digital enema. All the data is gathered by Experian (credit reporting agency) and then re-purposed by Cablevision, at a substantial cost I’m guessing, to sell super-slicing to advertisers.

What will be interesting to see is what impact this has on rates. I think this should drive them up, but convincing some advertisers that one super-targeted viewer is worth 1,000 nonplussed ones might be a challenge. It was here in Seattle when I was trying to sell the Homes Northwest show which drew in-process, dead-bang home buyers, but not many of them.

Comcast and Verizon are working on similar applications that will actually be able to parse viewing habits to pick advertising messages. In other words, if somebody is flipping between cartoons, they’ll know it’s one of the 2.1 kids you have stashed away in the house.

Advertisers have fired so much cash into outer space over the years it’s mind-boggling. We all made a nice living off of it though. Now, maybe advertising can finally deliver on some of its promises.

The only question is whether viewers are willing to take the enema.