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Wall inside Comcast office

Cable Companies to Offer Viewer-Specific Ads

Steve Heisler

Wall inside Comcast office

Three major communications companies will soon allow marketers to tailor ad buys to individual households

Targeted ads are nothing new. Companies are afforded easy access to your web browsing and social media data, so it’s commonplace to visit, say, an online retailer and find their ads following you around the internet.

But a new deal between three of the biggest cable operators will pull targeted advertising onto your television screen. The Wall Street Journal reports that National Cable Communications (NCC), a company owned by Comcast, Charter and Cox, is about to offer advertisers the ability to play specific ads in specific households based on information pulled from cable registration forms. Companies previously had access to general location data, but they may now access information such as viewers’ exact addresses and average household income. This could influence which car ads are served to a household, for example—luxury sedan versus budget compacts. Such targeted advertising can be as granular as showing a different ad to your next door neighbor.

According to the company’s website—NCC plans to rebrand as Ampersand—those who work with NCC have access to 85 million households in the U.S., with 40 million of those marked as proprietary. Speaking to Marketplace Tech Blogs earlier this year, DigiDay reporter Tim Peterson warned that the shared data won’t stop with your registration form. “In some cases, if you have an internet service bundled with your TV service, they can also track your browsing as well, what websites you visit,” he says. “If you have a cell phone service that’s also connected, they can know where you’re going out in the world and be able to take all that information into account to target you with ads on TV.”

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Speaking to Marketplace Tech Blogs earlier this year, DigiDay reporter Tim Peterson warned that the shared data won’t stop with your registration form. “In some cases, if you have an internet service bundled with your TV service, they can also track your browsing as well, what websites you visit,” he says. “If you have a cell phone service that’s also connected, they can know where you’re going out in the world and be able to take all that information into account to target you with ads on TV.”

NCC CEO Nicolle Pangis further adds that companies can tell when you turn your TV on and off, therefore informing which commercials you have already seen.

“We’re very careful to be privacy-compliant, because of the nature of the data,” she tells eMarketer. “We’re putting that data together to be able to use it both on the linear and addressable sides of the business.”

Small-screen marketers can expect access to this data soon, although it’s uncertain exactly how much will become available. NCC’s posted privacy policy, which explains how they collect personal information, states that it doesn’t apply to “data collected through Apersand’s advertising services and technology.” A privacy policy directly addressing NCC’s new TV monitoring could not be located.

Steve Heisler is staff writer at the American Marketing Association. His work can be found in Rolling Stone, GQ, The A.V. Club and Chicago Sun-Times. He may be reached at sheisler@ama.org.