Targeted TV Ads Exist – Here’s How It All Happens

Dec 9, 2022 / Industry Insights / FOTW

In this day and age, it’s become part and parcel of the internet to get targeted by advertisements, regardless of where you go. Whether it’s while watching a video on YouTube, scrolling through your favourite social media platform or simply browsing any website on the internet, you’ll be sure to get hit by an advert that’s a little too close to home. The saying “If you’re not a customer, then you’re the product” had very quickly become the unofficial motto of the current internet landscape.

But what about television? You might be forgiven for believing that TV is your one and only respite away from targeted advertising. After all, there are no third-party cookies attached to your TV. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In fact, you might have been hit by a targeted TV ad recently and probably not even realise it.

Don’t believe us? Read on and find out all you need to know about targeted TV advertising — and how you can avoid them if you want!

Yes, TV ads can be targeted!

That’s right, thanks to modern smart TVs with internet connections, you can also be targeted by TV ads! Although television advertising has been somewhat targeting audiences for nearly as long as they’ve existed, they’ve become a lot more personal in recent years. Sometimes, they might even feel like those ads you’ve come across online.

In most cases, you won’t be able to tell that you’re viewing a targeted advertisement just by looking at it. They have the same jingles, upbeat actors, and cheesy dialogue as other 30-second commercials. The ads find you in the same way they do for everyone else: through a complex, behind-the-scenes system that exchanges personal data billions of times per second to find the most receptive eyes for each sales pitch.

This is because television sets, and more specifically, smart TVs, are basically giant smartphones. Targeted TV ads are only possible thanks to these advancements in merging TV and the internet. But without third-party cookies, how do these advertisers get your data?

How TV ads track and target audiences

Online advertisers acquire data about you (such as your location, age, interests, purchasing habits, and the websites you frequent) in order to show you advertising for products they think you will be interested in. That’s basically how advertising works on Google and across social media platforms. However, you might not realise that the same thing is occurring on TV.

It’s called addressable TV advertising, and it means your cable or satellite TV provider is displaying commercials on your TV that your neighbour might not see, despite the two of you watching the same programme. Although targeted advertisements still make up a very small percentage of all online advertising, this is quickly changing as businesses realise the financial benefits of this strategy. TV advertisers have realised the opportunities that targeted ads bring to the table, hence why these types of advertising have entered the television sphere.

Typically, you would have signed up for an account with your cable, satellite, or streaming service provider. This means that these businesses now have access to your personal information, including name, address, phone number and email address. They have collected a lot of information about you. Those data points can then be linked to information about you held by other third-party data providers.

Although these TV companies protect your identity by anonymising your data, advertisers may still piece together information like your annual salary and the age of your car using this method. If you have a TV and internet bundle, they can see what sites you visit through your browser history and the cookies collected there. If you have a connected cell phone service, advertisers will be aware of your whereabouts and can tailor TV commercials to you accordingly.

Why do advertisers use targeted TV ads?

Everyone in the television advertising industry — from brands to broadcasters to advertisers — benefits from the increased efficiency made possible by targeted advertising. While traditional TV advertising still has its use cases and its advantages over other mediums, there are specific reasons why advertisers love the onset of TV advertising. 

Here are some of the benefits that can be enjoyed through utilising targeted TV advertising:

1. Reduce costs

Although targeted TV advertising slots tend to carry a heavier price tag compared to regular advertising slots, the nature of targeted advertising allows advertisers to save resources by using the opportunity to get more precise about who’ll be watching those ads. It’s a lot easier to target 25 to 40-year-old working professionals who live a healthy lifestyle through targeting compared to traditional TV advertising methods. Since advertisers will be able to target specific audiences, down to individual households, that means that there will be less wastage.

Targeted television advertising allows you to either find people who are similar to those who have previously shown interest in your brand — say, through social media — or to generate a completely new audience from scratch. You can accomplish your goal with a lot less money being squandered in this way.

2. Instant results

Advertisers only get feedback on their TV commercials’ effectiveness after they have been airing for at least a month. Like pay-per-click advertising, targeted television commercials may be monitored and tweaked at any moment thanks to the digital platform on which they are stored.

Hence, one of the best features of tailored TV commercials is that they can be monitored and updated in real-time. Clicks, direct responses, conversions, and cost-per-completed-view are all useful indicators for this purpose. To create engaging content and get the most out of their advertising budgets, marketers may use metrics to learn more about their target audiences and refine their advertisements’ quality, frequency, and targeting over time.

3. Higher ROI

Keeping customer acquisition costs to a minimum can be accomplished through the use of sophisticated targeting algorithms. This is accomplished by limiting the display of advertisements to prospective customers only, and thanks to targeted TV advertising, this is a possibility. As we’ve mentioned earlier, the price of targeted TV ad slots tends to be higher compared to traditional ones. But because targeted adverts are more likely to obtain a direct response from the advertisement’s audience, they’re more likely to obtain higher sales numbers and boost ROI significantly.

How to prevent yourself from being targeted by TV ads

The content that is displayed on the displays of smart TVs can be monitored through the application of technologies such as Automatic Content Recognition. You are able to accomplish this goal regardless of whether you are watching video on your smart TV itself, a device that streams content (like Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire), cable TV, a game console, or a Blu-Ray or DVD player. This content is utilised by the manufacturers in order to develop adverts that are more specifically aimed at the TV user, and the data is also provided to third parties.

To reclaim some of your privacy, you have the option to switch off automatic content recognition as well as voice recognition or voice assistants. While it might be slightly less convenient not to be able to say, “Alexa, play the latest episode of The Great British Bake-Off”, it means that there are fewer data points for advertisers to use. Nevertheless, some information, such as your location, will still be stored.

Final thoughts on targeted TV ads

Although targeted advertising can feel like quite a bit of a privacy minefield when it comes to data, it can be extremely useful for both advertisers and audiences alike. While advertisers are able to target the audiences that they need to, advertising audiences, in return, can be exposed to solutions that they’ve been actively searching for but found it difficult to find the “right one”. 

Overall, targeted TV advertising, in particular, prevents precious airtime from being wasted by showing audiences what they might actually want to see. . This is more essential for those new to TV brands who won’t have the marketing budgets the more established brands have, ensuring they get the most out of their marketing spends and creative campaigns. This is one of the main reasons why it’s a highly recommended marketing tool and why some of the great TV advertising agencies love to utilise its potential.


Keen on seeing what TV advertising can bring to your brand? Get in touch with an experienced advertising agency who’ll be able to help you get the job done!

Author - Jamie Smith

Jamie Smith is the Co-Founder and Creative Director at Fall Off The Wall, a forward-thinking TV advertising & creative production agency in the UK. Jamie Smith is an experienced Creative Director with a demonstrated history of working in the DRTV marketing and advertising industry.