Spy In The Room – Is Your TV Watching YOU?
Of the earliest days of television it is rumoured that a not insignificant number of the population believed a television set could allow the broadcaster at the other end to spy into their home.
Television was such a mammoth technical feat it is perhaps understandable that TV sets were sometimes a rather unsettling addition to the living room. Of course, the idea that my harmless friendly telly could act covertly and report my activities to distant unknown power is laughable… isn’t it?
Recently a London voucher code site put out a hoax video for a product named ‘Hearscreen’. The imaginary product placed microphones in televisions and using voice-recognition the system would display discount-code ads based on what viewers were talking about. Sounds frightening, yes? Well – isn’t this what Facebook already does? Post a status on Facebook mentioning a brand-name or a keyword such as ‘pizza’, ‘beer’ or ‘holiday’ and you’ll notice Facebook has been ‘listening’ to your updates – contextual ads will begin to appear based on what you’ve said. Translating this contextual model to television isn’t at all far-fetched. Net-connected TVs will have installed microphones (for both Skype and voice-controlled apps) and IP-based transmission networks make it relatively easy to deliver different ad-breaks to each user. But of course – is there really a market for such contextual ads? I mean, would Facebook or Google also like to take a big slice of the global TV advertising market? Would advertisers and agencies like to make broadcasting their TV commercials internationally as simple as running an Adwords campaign?
Contextual advertising that’s based on real-life conversations happening ‘in earshot’ of your television will become reality, and I can see it being here within the next five years. Naturally there will be concerns for privacy, cries that big-brother is listening in on household conversations – but the operators will undeniably claim, “You’ve been telling Facebook everything for almost a decade – so, what’s different?”
I’m interested to hear your views on the future of television advertising. Will TV ads remain a medium to reach millions of viewers in one hit, or is the future going to be more selective and tailored, moving further toward the remit of search-marketing businesses than traditional media-buyers?