As Google and Facebook glean private browsing data and chase consumers with internet ads, big marketers are seeking similar targeting with tens of billions of dollars in television advertising.
Riding this trend are start-up companies experimenting with new TV-audience measurement tools, one of which is iQ Media in Conshohocken, and TV networks, such as Comcast-owned NBCUniversal.
"There is this huge movement to take what we learned in digital through browsers and apply it to TV," said Kevin Kohn, whose hiring as chief executive officer for iQ Media was announced Monday.
"There is the huge convergence between digital and TV," Kohn said. "A lot of the people on the TV side are coming from the digital side."
Kohn is a prime example. He had been chief revenue officer at Lotame, a New York data-management platform for markers, ad agencies, and publishers that analyzes content consumption on mobile phones and internet-connected laptops. Lotame was used for pushing targeted content or advertisements at consumers.
iQ Media, a 75-employee start-up that raised $9 million in its last venture-funding round, tracks live TV feeds for company logos and on-air mentions. iQ Media then ties that TV advertising to website traffic or shoppers in retail stores.
"The big challenge with TV is that it's the black box," Kohn said. "You're spending a fortune on advertising, but you don't know what direct impact it has on your business."
iQ has about 400 clients, among them the chemical company 3M, the National Hockey League, and DreamWorks.
TV's goal is to stanch the steady drift of advertising dollars toward digital platforms, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and, most recently, the younger-skewing Snap. The internet search and social-media platforms glean scads of behavioral information from online activity that can then be used to target consumers with advertisements — making those ads highly efficient. As they evolve, online video companies also could target consumers with advertising.
Traditionally, TV has delivered audiences by Nielsen ratings based on the age and sex of viewers, or two narrow data points.
NBCUniversal recently announced that it would offer $1 billion in advertising inventory — or about 10 percent of its total advertising inventory — for "data-driven targeting."
NBCUniversal says that a portfolio of broadcast and cable networks, as well as its digital platforms, can reach "precisely defined customers." NBCUniversal calls this approach its "Symphony" strategy as it narrows its audience by accessing third-party data of potential audiences for shows through third-party data sources such as Experian, Polk, Kantar, E-Tech, and Acxiom.
NBCUniversal won't likely be able to target TV viewers as precisely as Google or Facebook because TV is a mass-audience medium. In addition, there are federal laws preventing a cable company from directly targeting subscribers with ads. But cable companies gather huge amounts of data on viewing patterns through set-top boxes and outside companies can analyze this data scrubbed of personal information to determine the likely audience for shows.
NBCUniversal also believes that its content — such as the Olympics or NBC broadcast-TV prime-time shows — is more powerful for marketers than internet content on YouTube or Facebook.
Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships at NBCUniversal, said that "by bringing together premium content at scale with guarantees based on business priorities, we're giving clients the best of both worlds": TV and digital.