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Could adverts start reading your mind?

Posted by Hannah Wright on 5th February 2013

UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB hit the news last week with its mystifying plans to launch a ‘personalised’ advertising service.

Made-to-order advertising

With the introduction of this service, TV fans will no longer face a bombardment of inappropriate adverts about dog food (when they don’t own a dog) or nappy adverts (when they don’t have kids).

Instead, we’ll get the chance to view adverts that might actually be applicable to us, with advertisers looking closely at our specific viewing tastes, household make-up, postcodes and more…

Is this an invasion of privacy?

Privacy is the first thing that comes to mind when companies begin to scrutinise our ‘private information’, in an attempt to infiltrate our thought processes. Immediately we curl into a protective ball around our personal details, typically as our social conditioning has taught us never to reveal too much info.

Future plans also suggest our online behaviour could be exploited, with the subject of a household’s web searches magically appearing in advert format on our TVs. Although subscribers can opt out of this, broadcasters and advertisers will need to shout about cancellation options from the rooftops, to soothe those worried about the use of their data.

Bargain-bucket adverts…Good or bad news for advertisers?

The great news for advertisers is that with better targeting, they won’t have to fork out as much for a standard, untargeted ad break. The catch? They will pay more on a cost per thousand basis. But with these tricky negotiations happening right now, we’ll have to sit tight and wait to see how much these ads will really cost the advertiser.

Live vs. on-demand

For the time being, the service will only be available for on-demand content, however other TV services such as YouView, are looking to introduce software that includes targeted ads on live broadcasts.

But in a battle between live and on-demand, these types of adverts would definitely find more of a home with live TV, as 85% of all viewing coming from live broadcasts (according to Ofcom). Those choosing to skip-over the importance of live TV, could run into difficulty.

Who wins?

Local and direct advertising is theoretically a great idea, as it has the potential to wave its hands in front of the correct audience, ignoring those who wouldn’t have batted an eyelid in the first instance.

But it might be worth asking the question, how accurate will these personalised adverts really be?

Unless TVs can physically read our mind, they could perhaps still miss target audiences that aren’t making their intentions traceable, e.g. those who book a holiday at the travel agents rather than online. As a result, the act of physically choosing to include and exclude particular demographics may still mean this type of targeted advertising isn’t so targeted after all…

picture credit

Hannah Wright

After joining in 2011, Hannah brings a wealth of experience across both consumer and B2B PR.