Comcast Is Merchandising Its Data: Does This Change the Game for Targeted TV?

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Rick Erwin, President-Audience Solutions at Acxiom, looks at the future of TV advertising.

Q: Will Comcast merchandising of its data actually help TV advertisers target consumers more effectively?

A: While “addressable TV” advertising has grown significantly in the past few years, it is only offered by cable and satellite operators using special set top boxes. So most major programmers are now offering to build packages of nationally distributed ads designed to reach specific audiences (e.g., luxury car buyers).

Comcast could use its data to help programmers more precisely target those audiences. Furthermore, by licensing its set top box data to the industry, Comcast could help a programmer, a network/programmer or a third party “set-top box data” applications company measure the effectiveness of the package of ads with a high degree of precision.

Because of its largest subscriber-based TV operator and balanced television footprint across the country, Comcast is very well positioned to offer an excellent targeting and measurement solution or enable another company to do so. Therefore, while it is quite early in the process to make an assessment, the steady increase in audience-based targeting in the television industry will undoubtedly create new and better opportunities for all of us in the marketing ecosystem.

Q: Isn’t targeting TV already providing geo-targeting and other data that allow for demographically accurate delivery of ads to consumers who are likely buyers of specific products?

A: Yes, there are other data providers seeking to meet the demands of advertisers and agencies for increased targeting and measurement precision, but many of these solutions are based on smaller data sets (e.g., household numbering a few millions or even less), or on data that is incomplete compared to the data Comcast could employ.

That said, any of the major television operators could offer a very powerful service of this kind, as could a measurement company licensing such a data set from one or more of these television operators. Bottom line is that to increase advertising relevance and reach, we need to strive for more predictive audiences, and, to that end, having more data from Comcast could help us predict relevance better.

Q: How does this impact cable versus network?

A: Data sets like Comcast’s are equally valuable for cable or network programmers because they allow for a more efficient media-buying process. Efficiency includes both targeting an advertiser’s custom audience as well as post-advertising campaign measurement when the same set top box data is used for targeting and to match back the advertiser’s transactional data to evaluate the campaign’s ability to drive an intended behavior.


Q: What is Acxiom’s point of view on how this will affect the programmatic TV landscape?

A: Data-driven television is still a work in progress. Programmatic is generally used as a proxy for algorithmic, automated targeting, media buying and measurement. From that viewpoint, all advertising will offer some component of programmatic within 10 years, so we are headed in the right direction.

Comcast data that’s used to help programmers sell traditional, linear TV ads helps traditional TV selling models hold their ground by giving advertisers more granular audiences with better measurement.

Other options, such as YouTube and Facebook for viewing video and programmers like HBO and ESPN, lead more viewers to watch TV via streaming. And that is already targetable at the individual level.

Overall, we think the Comcast announcement is part of a long-term trend to make advertising more precise and measurable, and the underlying reason for the programmatic trend in advertising.

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