Smarter TV ads could be coming soon

July 23, 2013

In the future, your computer might tell your TV when it’s the right time to show you an ad for takeaway pizza, burgers or fried chicken.

Murdoch University’s Audience Labs has tested the concept of using people’s web-browsing behaviour to select the TV ads they see, a development that Dr Steve Bellman said could benefit viewers and advertisers as long as privacy concerns are addressed.

“Right now, TV advertisers target commercials based on demographics such as age, gender, lifestyle and location, but this information can quickly become out of date and viewers are often given ads for products they’re not interested in,” Dr Bellman said.

“As cable and internet get more closely packaged – and as more people watch TV ads on catch-up TV sites such as SBS On Demand and Yahoo!7 – advertisers are looking at ways to evolve the TV ad model and get effective bang for their buck.”

“Advertisers estimate that about half their ads are wasted on the wrong viewers, and viewers are avoiding irrelevant ads. Our study shows that using people’s digital footprints adds a new layer of real-time information that enhances ad effectiveness for viewers and advertisers, though only for certain products.”

Dr Bellman said web-targeted TV ads were especially useful for ‘low-involvement products’, those that advertisers know consumers are actively looking to buy, because that’s the only time they’d look for them online, including fast food, beverages and home cleansers.

“Ads for high-involvement and lifestyle products, such as cars, computers and clothes, tend to be intrinsically interesting all the time, whether or not you’ve just been looking at these products on the Net.”

Dr Bellman said that for low-involvement products, web-based targeting could deliver the right TV commercial to the right person at the right time, but he cautioned the application needed to address privacy concerns during its evolution.

“We need to be sure people are OK with this level of information sharing and that the technology is sufficiently advanced to take into account issues such as multiple viewers and computer sharing,” Dr Bellman said.

“But as traditional TV viewership shrinks and fragments, advertisers are shifting their budgets to other mediums that offer better targeting, so this area is only going to grow. The key is making sure concerns are addressed.

“Surveys show that younger people are quite fine with sharing their personal information and preferences if it results in ads tailored to their interests. Older viewers, perhaps not so much…”

Using Internet Behaviour to Deliver Relevant Television Commercials’ has been published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing and involves researchers from Murdoch University, UWA, Curtin University and the Australian School of Management.

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