Imagine if a politician running for office could speak directly to you, while you’re sitting on your couch watching TV and eating popcorn. A little creepy right? This kind of scenario is on track to become a reality, thanks to a new ad buying option being launched by DISH Network and DirecTV.
The service will allow political campaigns to directly target their ads to individual homes. Called “addressable ads” these TV spots ensure campaigns that specific households will see their ads no matter what programming they’re watching. Campaigns can target ads to feature prominently in households they believe contain “persuadable voters” which is determined by a wide range of data, from past voting behavior to where you shop, to even your credit score.
This is one of the most specific ad targeting available, and is part of a growing trend in the way political campaigns utilize big data. During the 2008 and 2012 presidential races it was common for campaigns to use cable targeting for their television ads. This broader strategy for buying television spots involved identifying the kinds of demographics that embodied “persuadable voters” and then working with a media specialist to determine what programming these individuals were likely to be watching.
While both DISH and DirecTV have offered addressable advertising for over a year now, starting in March will be the first time they will be using this advertising strategy for political campaigns. Comcast is also opening up their capabilities to offer addressable ads to 20 million more households through on demand programming. They do not yet have the capabilities to target the ads during live programming however.
“The political category was really the right place to start to bring that scale, and with 20 million households, really was bringing to the market a great complement to the local designated market area cable buy and a really good alternative to local broadcast,” Keith Kazerman, senior vice president for ad sales at DirecTV told POLITICO.
Using big data to improve efficiency in campaign ad buying is certainly the way of the future, but it is cost prohibitive for most local and statewide races. In order to effectively utilize addressable ads, campaigns need to hire data analysts and extra media specialists to ensure they really are honing in on the correct audience, which is expensive
For many Americans, this new type of ad targeting raises some privacy concerns. Federal law prohibits cable providers from telling campaigns anything about specific viewers or their television watching habits. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t frightening to see just how much of your personal information is used to create advertising designed especially with you in mind.