In early 2001 I gave a speech entitled "The Future of Advertising" at a chapter meeting of the American Marketing Association. (I know, I know...even Nostradamus would have been embarrassed to use that title.)
I'm in the way-back machine because some recent headlines reminded me of something I talked about that day: the advent of addressable TV advertising. I spoke breathlessly about interactive TV (remember Wink?) and some emerging chatter about addressable TV. My instincts may have been right but my timing was way off.
Seven years later that chatter about addressable TV advertising is now a full-fledged dialogue. New companies such as Invidi Technologies can now provide cable operators with the tools to target specific commercials to specific viewers. Industry initiatives such as Project Canoe, a consortium of cable operators, are working to create a universal model to deliver, price and measure addressable advertising. The future is coming. Any day now.
What's behind this recent momentum toward addressable TV advertising?
First, the moon and stars are finally aligning. Like the Web, TV is now a digital medium. Let that sink in for a moment and it becomes apparent that it is time to rethink its potential. Combine its new digital delivery platform with the fact that viewership, while increasingly fragmented, is stable and large and we have a significant opportunity to reinvent TV advertising.
Second, the cable operators have a significant economic incentive to innovate. They currently capture only $5 billion of the $70 billion marketers invest in TV advertising.
Third, and perhaps the most powerful driver of change, is pure fear. And to cable operators fear is spelled g-o-o-g-l-e. The folks who brought targeted advertising to the Web with AdWords are now exploring the potential to bring targeted buying and pricing to TV through a test with EchoStar's Dish Network.
Marketers and agencies should actively support these initiatives. Addressable advertising will give us the ability to continue tapping TV's unmatched power to brand through sight, sound and motion with much greater precision and metrics. Sounds like a win-win.