TV ads are creeping outside the box

The sophistication of TV advertising isn't yet at a creepy, Back to the Future II, “Old-Spice-guy-spritzes-my-underarms” level, but I'm beginning to think it's only technology that's hampering the evolution.

Today, cable provider Cablevision said it can enable multiple brands to target separate households during one 30-second commercial spot. According to a company statement, “During the campaign which was conducted late in the fourth quarter of 2010, commercials for the five distinct brands [represented by marketing communications agency GroupM] were directed to the households based on likely relevance. The campaign sub-divided the 30- second spots across more than 25 cable networks.” The scale of the campaign? Nearly 3 million households in the New York metropolitan area.

It's not altogether earth-shattering when you consider the targeting of Facebook ads, but put it in the context of an ad in your Sunday paper. It'd be strange for someone who's not the New York Times reader on whom the paper sells advertisers, ex. a high schooler in Southern California, to pick up the Times and find an ad for surf wax amid the usual high-end fragrance ads.

Then imagine that the surf wax ad asked if the kid wants a 50% off coupon and, after he checks yes, a print coupon is mailed to him. That's the kind of thing Canoe Ventures and Donovan Data Systems are looking to get into, according to a press release sent out this morning. Last year, Canoe Ventures - whose founders include Bright House Networks, Cablevision Systems Corp., Charter Communications, Comcast Corp., Cox Communications, and Time Warner Cable - enabled viewers of three cable networks “to request information, samples or coupons during commercial breaks on national network inventory simply by using their remote controls.” This year, Canoe and DDS plan to expand that to a total of seven national cable networks with plans to grow it further.

Which is all to say that I'm never turning my back on the Old Spice guy. Not ever.

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