Targeted Ads Are Coming to Network TV



TV Networks Catch Up With Tech Companies

Network TV will soon have the ability to leverage the power of targeted ads nationwide. Tech companies like Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOGL) are able to show consumers highly specialized ads based on data about their habits. Network TV companies have lagged behind, using a decades-old ad strategy that mainly just targets consumers based on what shows they are watching. Networks can guess about viewers’ ages and genders, but soon they will have much more specific data about how viewers engage with ads. This will give them new ways to match ads to viewers.

Both networks and brands have been trying to find a way to leverage targeted TV ads for some time, but they have not been able to develop the necessary measurement systems. Now, Nielsen (NLSN), one of the nation’s leading media measurement firms, announced it will collect new types of data to help solve this problem.

Nielsen’s New System

The data Nielsen collects about TV audiences impacts billions of dollars’ worth of deals between advertisers and networks each year. However, its main system has not been updated since 2007, which is when it began collecting viewership data for commercial breaks rather than individual programs.

Now Nielsen plans to collect new kinds of viewership data from 55 million devices through partnerships with AT&T’s (T) DirecTV, and DISH Network Corp. (DISH). This will help advertisers and media companies track millions of views of shows and the ads that go with them. Armed with this data, Nielsen will be able to help measure engagement with ads aimed at very specific demographics on a national scale.

Looking Ahead

Targeted ads are already sold locally by pay-TV distributors, which can target specific ZIP codes and even households. Advertisers can distribute targeted ads nationally through these local networks, but it has to be done piecemeal. Nielsen’s new system of data collection will help streamline this process.

The new system is expected to raise the value of TV commercials. Recently, viewers have been engaging less with broadcast and cable networks and watching streaming services instead. This has caused advertisers to flock to these streaming services and to social media sites with robust targeted ad capabilities. However, thanks to Nielsen’s new data, it is likely that many advertisers will soon have renewed faith in TV advertising.


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