No, it’s not opposite day, and yes, you read that correctly. Someone at
TiVo thinks that consumers really love commercials so much, they want
to be able to search through their recorded content just to find them.
[TiVo] on Monday said it is working on technology that lets viewers search for specific advertisements.
The technology, which is expected to launch in early 2006, is the
latest sign of the advertising industry’s efforts to reach consumers
who are taking advantage of high-tech products to escape the
traditional ad pitch.
[. . .]
The advertising service will let subscribers search for a product by
category or keyword, then TiVo would deliver matching commercials to
the consumer’s set-top box.
I snarkily (snarkily? Is that a word? minus ten points, Wheaton) concluded that this is a totally lame feature that nobody would ever want to use:
Soooo . . . TiVo users complain by the tens of thousands that they want to be able to skip commercials, and TiVo gives them the ability to search for specific commercials?! Uh, okay.
TiVo must have done some market research for this feature, which leads
me to wonder, who are the idiots claiming to be technology enthusiasts
that TiVo talked to?
But now that it’s hours later, and I’ve had time to reconsider my snark . . . maybe I can be one of those idiots. I had this idea: what if TiVo subscribers were able to set up some sort of "profile" where they would check off a range of interests, as well as a range of things they are positively not interested in, and advertisers could target ads to the individual subscribers? It sort of longtails advertising, right? For example, I hate car commercials and beer commercials. But I’m interested in outdoor activities, so I respond to ads from places like REI. I am not interested in the latest Tom Cruise crap-o-rama, but I really enjoy the acting styles of Mr. Johnny Depp. I know it’s a long shot, and I know that the service as described (if I understand it correctly) is "client" side rather than "server" side, but wouldn’t it make more sense for advertisers to serve ads to people who were more likely to use the products or services they’re advertising?
I imagine that advertisers would still want to use commercials to inform consumers about new products, or new films, or whatever, and maybe there could be some auto-subscribed advertising channel which would serve anything, regardless of a subscriber’s preferences. But at the end of that commercial, the subscriber could "Thumbs Up" or "Thumbs Down" the product or service, and TiVo could adjust ads served to that subscriber accordingly.
This could even open up advertising to smaller companies who can’t afford to buy prime time slots that reach the entire country, but may be able to afford 50,000 buys for targeted audience members. I imagine that they’d get a better conversion on their ad sales.
There are obvious problems: privacy is the most glaring, but there are also several different demographics living in each house, so something would have to be done to adjust to the primary viewer of, say, CSI and the primary viewer of, say, Desperate Housewives, and the primary viewer of SpongeBob Squarepants.
I know that there are smarter people than me who read my blog. So what do you think? Shoot this full of holes and we’ll see if there’s anything left.