Comcast works with Miller Beer, Kraft Foods, Mars, Publicis to expand cable TV ad targeting. Baltimore new location for its micro-targeting–and consumer privacy threatening–trials

Here’s the excerpt from the 4/4/08 Comcast and Starcom (a division of Publicis ad giant) release. See too the role of outside databases in the targeting, including from Experian, Acxiom, List USA and Equifax. We hope Comcast watchers, privacy and consumer advocates, and Maryland state officials, take notice:

“Comcast Cable, and leading media agency network Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG) announced today the expansion of their agreement to test addressable TV advertising with a trial scheduled to launch in the third quarter of 2008 in the Baltimore, MD area. The companies also shared findings of a recently completed groundbreaking trial of addressable advertising technology…

The initial technical trial, which began in December 2006, took place in Huntsville, AL… Comcast has been offering zone-based advertising, but this was the industry’s first significant effort to deliver different ads within the same commercial break to different household groupings, based on demographics and advertiser segments…

“Addressable advertising gets us closer to the power of mass personalization by delivering highly relevant brand messages to engaged consumers, and this is the ideal connection in a world of scarce consumer attention,” said Laura Desmond, CEO-The Americas at Starcom MediaVest Group.

Major marketers active in the trial, all SMG agency clients, included General Motors, Discover Card, Hallmark, Kraft Foods, Mars, Miller Brewing Company and Procter & Gamble. One of the unprecedented capabilities demonstrated in this trial was advertisers were able to segment the market into audiences based on demographic data, and Comcast was able to deliver relevant ads for the advertisers’ products and services to each segment.

Comcast’s data services partner, Experian(R) Marketing Services, assisted Comcast in segmenting the market and matching relevant messages to groupings of households. Addressable advertisements were delivered with the support of OpenTV’s SpotOn(TM) advanced advertising solution, which allows for seamless switching of video ads to aggregated groups of set-top boxes…
The trial revealed that viewers who saw ads directed to households within a particular group were less likely to change channels… The Huntsville market was selected to pave the way for a larger scale deployment in 2008. The next Comcast Cable market slated to receive an expanded trial of addressable advertising is Baltimore, MD using Invidi’s Advatar(TM) technology.”

Comcast, in its release, claims that privacy will be honored. We think that’s a claim that requires to be challenged. Here are excerpts from Invidi, the technology company Comcast is using for this micro-targeting and data collection trial:
” For operators, ADVATAR provides the ability to address every subscriber on an individual basis. Marketing messages can be fine tuned and matched to the diverse interests of viewers and to the rapidly changing marketing needs of operators…
Viewer Present Classifier
Learning the demographic make-up of the household is critical to targeted impressions delivery
Age Classifier
Behavioral cues, viewer patterns and remote control click-stream data create gender IDs that are accurate and reliable
Gender Classifier
Converging industry data and program category information with remote control usage generates superior gender identification
Income Classifier
Cross-tabulating US Census data and zip code+4 information creates dynamic blocks of median household income
Geography Classifier
Periodically published tables correlate unique DSTB IP addresses with zip code + 4 data for dynamically generated targeting zones
Additionally, INVIDI is expanding its classifier set to include a Multicultural Classifier and a Contextual Search Classifier…
With Spot Optimization advertising inventory on the most popular cable programs is expanded by segmenting the audience to enable either a single advertiser to deliver multiple ads or multiple advertisers to advertise to different demographic targets all within a single time-specific break – generating substantial additional revenue by creating more quality targeted inventory to sell…
Geo Targeting
Every advertiser and marketer has the ability to create their own unique geo targeting mapping criteria. ADVATAR’s Geo Targeting used in combination with addressable, demographic and behavioral processes creates a new and powerful television advertising and marketing landscape…

For advertisers, ADVATAR is the ultimate impressions delivery system – making “Prime Time” whenever viewers are watching television. For the first time ever on any television platform media planners can precisely execute their advertising campaign with reach, frequency and separation – guaranteed impressions delivery to true demographic targets.
For media buyers ADVATAR provides unprecedented access, prevue, purchase, verification, real-time campaign management and dynamic reporting of television delivered impressions.”

PS: From Invidi’s December 2007 deal with Nielsen [excerpt. our emphasis]:
“The Nielsen Company and INVIDI Technologies Corporation today announced a multi-year agreement to share data and explore ways to measure personalized television ads targeted at specific viewers. As part of the non-exclusive agreement, Nielsen will provide INVIDI with demographic data that will enable INVIDI to refine and improve its advanced software engine – called Advatarâ„¢ — to track “addressable” advertising. Addressable or “targeted” advertising allows digital television providers to simultaneously deliver different ads to specific groups or even individuals based on their demographics, buying habits or personal preferences.”
PPS:  A video report on Comcast & Invidi (note mention of privacy concerns). via YouTube.


Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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