Sunday's Boston Globe had an interesting article by Scott Kirsner on personalized advertising, which focused on how marketers are coping with the "DVR problem". I.e., with so many people recording shows for later replay, they're zapping right through the ads. (Kirsner also deals with another ad phenomenon: people voluntarily watching ads they like on YouTube and other video sites. Hard to believe but the wretched Super Bowl ad for Emerald Nuts - the one in which Robert Goulet appeared as a cadaver - has been viewed 1 million times. Make that 1 million and one, now that I've gone back to confirm how terrible the ad was.)
Marketers are dealing with the DVR problem in a variety of ways. More advertising online. More product placements in movies and shows. More "citizen marketing."
But the principal focus of the ads was on personalized and particularized advertising. Some of the ideas mentioned in the article were quite interesting. Taking advantage of all those Big Brother data bases out there, carmakers could gear sportscar ads to kidless homes, while beaming ads for SUVs and mini-vans to households with children. The premise, of course, is that the more geared to YOU the ad is, the more likely you are to pay attention to it.
Ads could further be personalized down to the most micro of levels. Again, the example Kirsner used was for carmakers starting to move in on you when they learned that your current car lease was up in a couple of months. As long as they don't get too personalized. I'm fine with Dennis Hopper and his baby-boomer ads for Ameriprise, but I really don't want him saying, "Come on, Maureen Rogers. You really haven't saved enough for your retirement now, have you." When that day comes I will find my old camping axe and hack the TV set to death.
Among other possibilities mentioned in the article was the concept of having ads that link to the day's events, what's happening on Wall Street, the weather, the score of the game you're watching. Kirsner cited an experiment that Wendy's was running in which when the temperature was over 60 degrees, they promoted milkshakes; under 60 degrees, they flogged chili.
Spookily, there's now technology available that can let your cable/satellite provider tell with 95 percent accuracy whether a man or a woman is in command of the channel cruiser. (Guess which gender does more hyperclicking?)
Thus, by observing the clicking patter, the broadcaster can discern that the person watching that two-hanky real-woman movie on Lifetime - you know, the ones where Lindsay Wagner plays a wronged woman trying to find new meaning in her life as a single mom with a handicapped child who meets this really nice guy who likes long, soulful walks on the beach, only to find out he's got 6 months to live, or worse that he's an axe murderer capable of destroying his TV when an Emerald Nuts ad comes on - was actually a man, not a woman. Armed with this intelligence, they could swap out the ad for Oil of Olay or tampons for one for Old Spice other manly thing.
All of this personalized advertising is a response to the pressures on broadcasters to demonstrate that TV advertising is still a good way to go. As Kirsner notes,
Until the targeters can trot out data that show how much more effective their approach is, and making the case that it can effectively combat ad-skipping, ad dollars may continue to migrate elsewhere.
Of course, all this technology is a two-way street, so people could filter out ads that they don't want to see. (First on my list: Emerald Nuts.)