Personalized Ads Coming to Your Television


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TV execs are taking a page from the Internet ads playbook, by experimenting with ads tailored to specific viewers. The Wall Street Journal reports that “data-gathering firms and technology companies are aggressively matching people’s TV-viewing behavior with other personal data — in some cases, prescription-drug records obtained from insurers — and using it to help advertisers buy ads targeted to shows watched by certain kinds of people.”

Though this Truman Show-like technology is still in the early stages, companies like Cablevision are already using harvested data to beam specific ads at specific subsets of the TV-watching population. And they have the technology to go even further: show totally different commercials, in real time, to different households tuned to the same show.

Meanwhile, data crunchers are already discovering interesting trends among viewers. For example, “watchers of Jersey Shore are regular buyers of yogurt.”

Cable providers are, no surprise, pretty excited about this new tech, especially given that targeted ads command higher prices than non-targeted ads. Still, TV providers have to be careful about how they go about this new ad model. Regulatory laws prohibit your cable provider from disclosing your identifying info to a potential advertiser — but the loophole is that the provider can release information about groups of similarly-behaved people.

Targeting is the norm online, and we should only expect to see more of it anyplace we experience advertising. That being said, does watching “catered ads” on your home TV strike you as cool or creepy?