Advertising becomes even more personal Technology gives new meaning to micromarketing, targeting individual buyers and households
Advertising is getting more personal than ever, with marketers sending targeted messages via the Internet, cable TV, and, soon, cell phones, to potential buyers based on demographics, previous buying history or expressed interest in a product or service. Marketers call it addressable advertising.
Right now, targeting is mostly regional and anonymous. Comcast Cable, for example, offers the ability to buy commercial time in its 10 largest markets for a single event such as the Super Bowl and broadcast a different version of the same advertisement to each market. Previously, advertisers would have to buy separate slots in each market for the same results.
The Weather Channel is activating a nationwide system that will be able to broadcast ads appropriate to the local forecast. Six Flags helped test the system. In April 2004, the amusement park ran a package of commercials with each spot, promoting the park closest to the viewer. The company also had the Weather Channel broadcast one message if the forecast called for sunshine, and a second, more general brand-building message, if rain was expected.
Within a few years, marketers will be able to send messages tailored to the viewing habits of individual households based on viewing history. A household that always watches a particular sports team might receive messages inviting them to purchase tickets or team paraphernalia.
Of course, nothing says personal like being addressed by name, and advertisers will turn to the Internet for that level of individualization. Will consumers respond? Yes, if initial reaction is any indication.
When Google announced that messages sent and received by users of its by-invitation-only Gmail service would be read to facilitate delivery of personalized advertisements based on message content, privacy advocates sent up a billowing red flag. Nevertheless, many people want in, and are willing to pay for the free service. Access codes offered on eBay are snapped up, and Gmail hopefuls enthusiastically swap whatever they have on gmailswap.com to obtain an account. Apparently, the “cool factor” trumps privacy concerns.
Dotomi, a company that facilitates sending customized ads to Internet users, has been equally well received. More important, even after the novelty wore off, click rates continued to be high. In the ad business, that’s big news and virtually guarantees that this bandwagon will get mighty crowded over time.