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Consumer behavior data fuels more advertising buys

Technology Writer

In recent years, consumer behavior data has emerged as a valuable targeting resource. Forget what consumers tell polls or focus groups; they reveal their real intentions with online searches, social media comments and purchases.

Of course, connecting the dots between customers' true intentions and their media consumption is something of a holy grail for marketers. The industry may be moving toward a day when it is possible to get the right message in front of the right consumer at just the right time. But currently, this only happens now and again. The norm is to rack up a string of "near misses," where one element is off.

When advertisers can gather detailed consumer behavior data and sort through it with advanced analytics, however, they can get closer than ever to the elusive goal of connecting all of the dots.

TV networks edge closer to solutions

In the 2015 Upfront presentations, the major TV networks acknowledged this hunger for data. NBC in particular talked up NBCUX, a programmatic solution that uses various sources of data and is aimed at its top customers. Speaking to Adweek last year, Linda Yaccarino, NBCU's chairman of ad sales, said the data comes from a variety of sources and can be tailored by industry. Car brands, for instance, can use R.L. Polk & Co.'s lists of customers who are most likely to be interested in specific car brands. Entertainment companies, on the other hand, can use data from Fandango, the NBC-owned movie ticket purchasing site.

This effort builds on NBCU+ Powered by Comcast, which the network offered during the 2014 upfronts. The program used Comcast anonymized subscriber data to better target consumers. For instance, a luxury carmaker could use NBCU+ to target national audiences in geographic zones with a high percentage of people who previously bought similar vehicles.

Other networks have done the same. According to Variety, ABC lets advertisers match customers' viewing habit data with their in-house information. CBS, on the other hand, employs data from Nielsen and Rentrak to let advertisers know how many brand consumers are in a given audience, according to Ad Age.

Social data on the horizon

So far, consumer behavior data from social media is still on the horizon. Networks have used Twitter, of course, to gauge the success of their current or upcoming programs, but so far, weaving in data that reflects the interests or buying habits of social media users hasn't been part of the plan.

Jeremy Hull, vice president of products services and solutions at iProspect, says that may change soon.

"I think that's a big opportunity for TV buyers," he explained in a recent interview. "I haven't seen anyone that integrates social signals in a real-time format."

Hull says one of the primary benefits would be to capitalize on events when they are trending.

Another possibility is that Facebook will share its data with broadcasters. At the moment, however, Facebook appears more interested in attracting TV advertising dollars with cross-screen opportunities than in leveraging its data via TV.

Cross-device targeting

It would also be helpful for buyers to have access to data from other devices that consumers use throughout their day. If a consumer searches for a Toyota truck on her iPad one morning, then ideally Toyota would be able to serve up an advertisement at night when she's in front of the TV.

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