Campaigns Are Buying Your TV Subscription Data

commercial sliderIf you’re a Cablevision, Comcast, DirecTV or Dish Network customer, political campaigns will soon be targeting your household like never before. And not just your residence in general, but down to each individual viewer in the home.

Here’s how it’ll work: the providers are now allowing campaigns to access subscriber data in an effort to tailor ads that you’re more likely to respond to or relate with.

Do you watch a great deal of children’s programming? Expect a few targeted ads about family values. Are you recording hunting shows? Maybe you’re ripe for a gun rights message.

In a January interview with LaPolitics, campaign consultant George Kennedy tipped his hat about how the new kind of buys could change media strategies:

We’re about to be able to buy TV one person at a time into your home. As in you will only be able to see what ad I want you to see… Your Cablevision box knows your unique IP address. And as soon as they can work the metrics out, we’ll be able to do it. Computing has become so cheap and powerful. Algorithms and big data. Think about it. I can pop three different ads into one household for three different viewers.

PBS Newshour offered this overview Wednesday:

Data geeks look at everything from voting histories to demographics, magazine subscriptions to credit scores, all in the hopes of identifying their target audience. The advertiser then hands over a list of targets and, without the viewer necessarily realizing it, the ads pop on when viewers sit down to watch a program if their broadcaster has the technology.

“This is the power of a 30-second television commercial with the precision of a piece of direct mail targeted to the individual household level,” said Paul Guyardo, chief revenue officer at DirecTV. “Never before have advertisers had that level of precision when it came to a 30-second commercial.”

The level of precision on televisions has long been a dream for political campaigns, which are decided by relatively small groups of voters. President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2012 experimented with it on a small scale, but too few homes were in broadcasting systems equipped to handle house-by-house decisions.

But earlier this year, DirecTV and Dish Network announced a partnership that would allow political clients to reach into about 20 million households by matching up customers’ identities with their satellite receiver, much like a telephone number rings at a specific handset.

At the same time, NBC and parent company Comcast are opening the door for advertisers to target specific households using video-on-demand services in 20 million more households. The communications giant is not yet ready to implement the targeting during live broadcasts, though.

A story posted three weeks ago by a journalist at Advertising Age offers more background:

The move now was inspired partly by the use of data of in the most recent presidential election, executives at Dish and DirecTV said. "Political spending is a rapidly growing market and this allows us to go after new money," said Warren Schlichting, senior VP-media sales, Dish Network.

The partnership will give campaigns the ability to show their messages to a precise set of potential voters and eliminate spending waste, said Keith Kazerman, senior VP-ad sales, DirecTV.

DirecTV and Dish will open an office in Washington, D.C., to house the joint operation and will hire about five new employees to start. The companies' other media sales efforts will continue to operate independently.

Other pay TV companies including Cablevision and Comcast offer varying degrees of targeting capabilities. But Dish and DirecTV have made the biggest leaps in giving the technology broad reach. Dish delivered its first national addressable campaign in July 2012, while DirecTV rolled out its platform nationally a year ago.

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