Most online consumers are now used to Google and Facebook sending them targeted advertisements based on their behavior and message content; that kind of highly specific targeting is coming soon to a TV near you with marketers able to send specific commercials to specific households based on demographics.

Addressable television advertising, which melds financial and cable company data into a platform to produce targeted TV spots, provides a way to match specific ads to specific demographics. That allows banks to get more bang for the buck and makes television a potential source of innovative bank marketing for the first time in years.

"It's advanced advertising for television," says Josh Herman, multi channel marketing innovation leader for Acxiom, which has done beta testing in two markets with a bank and an insurance company and cable operators. Acxiom's piece of the pie includes managing and integrating consumer data into an advertiser prospect and marketing database. "The bank CMO will be able to leverage investment in database marketing into television in a way that's more measurable than ever before."

Acxiom has entered into a partnership with Experian, Nielson and Visible World - an interactive advertising vendor which allows different versions of ads to be shown in different households - to merge television set-top-box data into a single database to facilitate the growth of addressable ads. Other addressable television tech providers include Invidi Technologies and Navic Networks, which was purchased by Microsoft in 2008. Cable providers such as Comcast and Time Warner estimate that by the end of 2009, about 10 million households will have access to advanced advertising capabilities, a number that should double by the end of 2010. In the Acxiom pilots, consumers viewed ads, and were given the option of clicking a button on their remote controls to engage an interactive graphic to get more information about a specific offering. For one of the pilots, Herman says 61 percent of the "responders" were existing customers.

Addressable advertising works by matching consumer relationships, financial information and transaction data from the bank/data firm side with neighborhood demographics from the cable/broadcast side and creative from the ad agencies. The result is television advertising that threads a narrower demographic needle, selling specific financial products to specific customers or groups of customers. "A lot of national banks are trying to embrace localized marketing. Advertisers, agencies and CMOs are looking at ways to measure effectiveness of advertising," says Kosta Skoulikaris, a senior director at Experian, which has participated in addressable television trials with firms including Comcast, Publicis and Discover over the past few years. "Addressable television allows you to go to micro targeting and micro measuring."

For banks, addressable advertising's most likely benefit is to place television, in which about $70 billion was spent on advertising last year, on a flexibility plane with online, in which about $20 billion was spent. That would give banks more leverage to match television campaigns to specific targets when negotiating fees with agencies. "I can't for the life of me think we're going to see huge growth in deposits or accounts because of this," says Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite Group, saying consumers research those decisions too carefully to be wooed by a television ad. "But what [addressable advertising] should be able to do is stem the flow of dollars from television to other channels."

So far, there haven't been a lot of addressable campaigns from financial institutions, but the participants in pilots claim there's promise.

"The set-top box allows you to monitor the tuning behavior, so second by second you know the ad is playing," says Tracey Scheppach, svp and innovations director for Starcom MediaVest Group, a division of Publicis, which has done extensive testing of addressable advertising over the past couple of years with Comcast in markets such as Huntsville, AL; Baltimore and Brooklyn. The agency utilized Experian's marketing services to assist Comcast in market segmentation. The addressable ads were delivered via OpenTV's SpotOn advertising technology, which allows for switching of ads to groups of set-top boxes.

There's still the matter of whether people actually watch commercials. Forrester Principal David Card says about 25 percent of TV households use DVR or Tivo, and about 40 percent of ads shown are skipped. But the Starcom trial, for example, revealed homes receiving addressable advertising tuned away 38 percent less. And TNS Research found 56 percent greater efficiency from sending ads to relevant groups, based on the per-spot costs of the advertisements.

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