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TVs May Start to Know Everything About Your Politics

by Fahad Saleem

Everyone is aware that the stuff we do online is tracked and probably sold to third parties so they can target you with more appropriate ads. Targeted advertising has become an important element of the internet, mostly because internet browsing creates a good amount of data that can be studied easily. Television in the other hand is different. It’s more of a hit-or-miss situation there. The advertising is not accurate, but it is extremely effective if displayed to the right people. But recently, targeted advertising on TV has taken a big step. DirecTV and Dish Network (two of the most popular cable-TV networks) announced that they are planning to give political advertisers the option to target their ads down to the household level. What this means is that the  20+ million homes in the Unites States will start getting highly personalized campaign ads that interest them.

How does it work? How can political advertisers advertise the right ads to the right people? Well, while your cable box is idle, it will tune into a channel that’s currently playing an ad you’re supposed to see. The DVR in the cable box will record the ad and then insert it into whenever you’re watching TV (replacing the ad that was supposed to be shown instead). Any household that is with DirecTV or Dish will get this targeted advertising, so politicals strategists can choose and display you a message meant just for you.

Political operatives are excited about this because it gives them access to a very large group of test subjects for their material. Targeted advertising is expensive though, so most likely is the most campaigns won’t be able to afford it. Only the high level campaigns can avail such a thing. To get a better picture of targeted advertising on TV, think of a neighborhood with 100 people. 25 of them support your message and 25 of them support the other person’s message. That leaves 50 people who are undecided and need further convincing. Instead of just distributing your message to 50 random people (of those 50 could include people who already support you and people who don’t) wouldn’t it be better to target those who haven’t decided yet? In targeted advertising, you don’t have to hope your message reaches the right people. Instead, you know you will be sending your message to the right people.

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