- The television commercial -- a blunt instrument that often reaches as many disinterested people as desired ones -- is beginning to behave like a smarter version of direct mail. Ads can be customized, not just by neighborhood, but ultimately by household and perhaps by viewing habits.
If you don't own a dog, you won't be bombarded by ads for Puppy Chow or Iams. If the technology determines that the man of the house has wrested control of the remote from his teenage daughters, he will not have to sit through feminine hygiene ads during the most popular network shows.
Their ultimate goal is ... to make ads more relevant to the lives of viewers, so that they might just stick around and watch. Instead of commercials being an annoyance, they become information a viewer needs, perhaps even craves.
If you view advertising as being propaganda -- trying to hoodwink you into buying something you don't want or need -- then this new trend toward targeting may be disturbing. After all, targeted, effective propaganda is worse than untargeted, ineffective propaganda.
But if you view advertising as information -- useful information about products and services you don't know about and might want -- then this new trend toward targeting will seem positive to you. It will waste less of your time and help you get the information you need.