I’m glad I don’t watch feminine hygiene product commercials these days.
Not that I ever enjoyed them. They just often plopped into television programs that might have had a significant female audience. In the desperation that is mass advertising, marketers know that a great deal of the ad spend is utter waste, such as when pitches for FDS appeared in my bachelor pad. The folks at Preparation-H realize that they sell to a specific demographic, and a growing minority at that. For every anxious prospect reached via a network television show, they are selling to twenty people who are suddenly slightly disgusted. Though you can reduce misspent budget by pouring through demographic viewership data, there is always a great deal of zero return in mass media.
Thankfully mass media may be dying.
Ubiquitous broadband allows for individualized content and advertising targeting. This is nothing new — that was the original commercial glory of the Internet. But the intersection of streaming video and people abandoning television (I dumped all mine last year) is leading headlong into pinpoint ad placement and even customized advertising (which may in turn lead to customized programming). Four-year-old Hulu.com is already raking in a half billion advertising bucks each year, and are pioneering targeted video entertainment. Video ad targeting, in the Hulu sense, offers marketing people many bright alternatives.
Demographics targeting: Hulu knows I am a male, and thus shows me advertising that leans toward a male perspective, pitching products from muscle cars to beer (they missed on that last one since I’m definitely a whiskey man). This saves 50% of ad dollars, but so does the fact that Hulu knows I am mumble-mumble years old, and thus might soon need to see those Preparation-H spots.
Aggregation: Video targeting also leverages aggregation of viewer information. If I watch reruns of Archer, Hulu can see what other Archer watchers prefer in advertising content and make an educated guess as to what ads I might get value from.
Self-selection: Hulu allows people to say if an ad was useful to them. Over time this paints an interesting profile of a viewer, narrowing or expanding what interests them and thus what commercials might sell one viewer some product. Combined with aggregation, this makes initial ad spend very effective and thus very affordable.
Interstitial: The ads one sees at the start, middle or end of a program might change based on the content of the program. You can do that with today’s television, but the ad change might not be best for all audience (advertising Kleenex at the end of a tear-jerker movie might do well for some female viewers, but scoffing males would not add any brand of tissue to their shopping list).
Mobile/desktop/set: The ad that runs can change depending on the environment and location of the viewer. If technology reported that a male viewer was in a suburban area and watching on a plasma TV, ads for pizza delivery would do well. Conversely, if a female viewer was watching on a cell phone at a bus stop during her afternoon commute, ads from Monster.com that suggest a better job awaits would be profitable.
The net (pun intended) take-away is that television is dying, and none too soon. Radio may go the same route. People need asynchronous content, tailored to their preferences, and without meaningless commercials. Marketing managers need to be more frugal with their advertising spend. The two needs are creating an undeniable trend. Now if Hulu would just remove those Budweiser ads from my Family Guy time …