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Next up: TV ads just for you, dear voter

Published 11:23am Monday, February 17, 2014

WASHINGTON — The days when political campaigns would try to make inroads with demographic groups such as soccer moms or white working-class voters are gone. Now, the operatives are targeting specific individuals.

And, in some places, they can reach those individuals directly through their televisions.

Welcome to Addressable TV, an emerging technology that allows advertisers — Senate hopefuls and insurance companies alike — to pay some broadcasters to pinpoint specific homes.

Advertisers have long bought ads knowing that only a fraction of the audience was likely to respond to them. Allowing campaigns — political or not — to finely hone their TV pitches to individuals could let them more efficiently spend their advertising dollars.

“With a traditional TV buy you can end up paying for a lot of eyeballs you don’t care about,” said Chauncey McLean, chief operating officer of the Analytics Media Group, an ad and data firm. “Addressable TV is a powerful tool for those that are equipped to use it. If you know who you want to talk to and what you want to say, you can be much more precise.”

Data geeks look at everything from voting histories to demographics, magazine subscriptions to credit scores, all in the hopes of identifying their target audience. The advertiser then hands over a list of targets and, without the viewer necessarily realizing it, the ads pop on when viewers sit down to watch a program if their broadcaster has the technology.

“This is the power of a 30-second television commercial with the precision of a piece of direct mail targeted to the individual household level,” said Paul Guyardo, chief revenue officer at DirecTV. “Never before have advertisers had that level of precision when it came to a 30-second commercial.”

The level of precision on televisions has long been a dream for political campaigns, which are decided by relatively small groups of voters. President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2012 experimented with it on a small scale, but too few homes were in broadcasting systems equipped to handle house-by-house decisions.

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