Advertisers Watch You Watch TV to Better Sell You Products

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Apparently, it’s no longer in stereotype Russia that television watches you. Ever searching for new and better ways to target commercials at the right audiences, television companies and advertisers have managed to create a new way of making sure that you see – or fast-forward through – exactly the kinds of commercials that appeal to you the most.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, not only are advertisers using data-gathering companies and tech to match people’s TV-viewing habits with other personal information (including, worryingly, information sold by insurance companies) to better target demographics, but one company – Cablevision Systems Corp. – has invented a system that can show completely different commercials to different households watching the same program in real time:

This technology figures out which subscribers should see which ad by anonymously matching the names and addresses of Cablevision’s subscribers with data provided by advertisers and others, via a third party. Cablevision says it doesn’t share subscriber data with advertisers, or use or share viewership information.

Well, apart from using it to sell specifically-targeted commercials, of course.

That’s not the only specialization available to advertisers these days; another company called Simulmedia Inc. uses information drawn from cable providers to divide viewers into specialized categories including “fake news followers” and “heartstringers” depending on their viewing habits, and work out which ads will be most effective to which audiences.

If all of this seems like overkill, then it’s just the industry reacting to panic from advertising executives, as television advertising faces increasing challenges from internet advertising, which can more easily target the perfect sucker – I mean, consumer. As one advertising VP said at a recent TV advertising conference, “this is our Sputnik moment.” Hyperbole perhaps, but at least it lead to the discovery that Jersey Shore viewers really, really like yogurt.

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