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Comcast/Starcom Study: Trying Prove That Ad Targeting Works

This story was written by David Kaplan.

It stands to reason that someone considering the purchase of a new car would likely be more receptive to auto ad than someone who isn't. After 16 months of considering some obvious examples like that, Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) Spotlight, the cable operator's advertising unit, and Publicis Groupe media agency Starcom say they are able to quantify just how effective targeted ads are: households that received "addressable ads" were 56 percent more "efficient" that ads that weren't targeted. Also, the study found that the targeted households it sampled changed the channel 38 percent less than those watching traditional ads. The ad targeting partnership between Comcast and Starcom is part of a series of moves both are taking to interactive advertising, as the cable operator is coordinating and backing the Project Canoe, a joint venture with five other major cable operators that will allow national advertisers to buy customized and targeted ads across the companies' systems. Meanwhile, Starcom was one of the first agencies to begin working with TiVo on its demographic and viewing behavior measurement services, the Power//Watch Consumer Panel and Stop//Watch.

In this case, Comcast and Starcom's study began in December 2006 in Huntsville, AL. Comcast delivered thousands of ads, across eight "major" cable networks, addressed to anonymous groups of households based on general characteristics chosen by the trial's participating advertisers, who included General Motors, Discover Card, Hallmark, Kraft Foods, Mars, Miller and Procter & Gamble. Users were able to be targeted thanks to access to data from Experian, which tracks income and other personal information.The study is ongoing and is now being expanded to Baltimore and will be powered by set-top box analyst Invidi, which has received investment backing recently from Motorola (NYSE: MOT) and Publicis Groupe rival WPP Group. TNS Media Research has also been contributing its data and analysis to the study. Release

-- WSJ has a few more details about how the targeting worked: for example, Experian can identify homes with pet owners, making it possible for a pet food marketer to target them. 

By David Kaplan

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