Last night I bought a Tracfone online. This morning, when I bring up FOSS Force on the browser, I’m greeted by an ad hawking Tracfones. Likewise, a few months ago after I purchased a coolant reservoir for my 27 year old BMW, I was greeted by ads on every site I visited for companies specializing in parts for old BMWs. We’re all used to this, right? Even if we just conduct a simple Google search, we’re liable to be followed around by ads pertaining to that search for hours, if not days or weeks.
Well, guess what? This sort of targeting is coming to your TV soon.
Ad buyers have been saying for quite a while that television advertising is something of a bargain these days when compared to the prices they’re paying to advertise on the Internet. Much of that has to do with targeting, which Google has perfected to a surgical science on the Internet, with a precision that pretty much hasn’t been possible on television. On TV, a company selling articles which primarily appeal to young teen age girls, for example, can buy time on a show that has high numbers in that demographic, but that’s about it — and that’s kept television time relatively cheap.
With the Internet, ad campaigns can be targeted much more narrowly — such as to consumers who’ve already shown an interest in similar products, guaged by their surfing habits. Better yet, by using the pay-per-click model, advertisers don’t have to pay a dime for ads until a user actually clicks on an ad to further investigate the product or service. There’s a rub, however. Those clicks are pretty damn expensive these days, often costing the advertiser a couple of bucks or more for each click — which more often than not isn’t going to result in a sale. This can make acquisition costs for new customers astronomically high.
Now, according to an article published Friday by Adweek, Google plans on changing all that through technology it’s developing to use on its Google Fiber network.
“‘Fiber TV ads will be digitally delivered in real time and can be matched based on geography, the type of program being shown (sports, news, etc.), or viewing history,’ the company explains in a blog post….
‘Like digital ads, advertisers will only pay for ads that have been shown, and can limit the number of times an ad is shown to a given TV. We’re excited to see how this test progresses, and we’re looking forward to hearing from local businesses and viewers along the way.'”
Although it might seem to be good news that Google promises to let viewers opt out of having their viewing history tracked, it’s doubtful that this will be enough to satisfy privacy advocates, as pointed out Saturday by Ian Paul on PCWorld.
“Google Fiber’s program will likely raise privacy concerns since the company wants to target advertising based on viewer habits. Privacy is a little bit different, however, with Google the cable/Internet provider versus Google the online monolith.
“First, Google Fiber already knows a customer’s physical location in order to deliver its services and monthly bills. Showing ads based on current programming also shouldn’t be a problem since it’s just a more precise version of the demographic ad targeting that happens now. But storing your viewing history to target ads is new and that’s where some subscribers may be uncomfortable—especially if it gets tied to your Google account.”
For the time being, if we keep our blinders on this all seems to be rather benign — but how long until it morphs into something more malignant?
Remember, Google Fiber is essentially an ISP, with the main purpose of bringing the Internet to subscribers computers and mobile devices. How long before Google decides to also take into account data they’ve collected on subscribers’ surfing habits when deciding what ads to insert into reruns of Gilmore Girls? Is the day coming when we buy an air filter for an old 70s model Dodge online and are then inundated for a couple of weeks by TV ads for businesses specializing in old Mopar parts?
As they used to say on an old TV show: You can bet your bippy on it.