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May 06, 2008

Asserting User Choice in Advertising

Posted in: Mobile Marketing, User Insights

Hulu (http://www.hulu.com), the web tv brand launched a month ago by NBC Universal is set to let users pick which ad to watch.

Maybe you’ve had the experience, trying to catch up to an episode of Lost that your Tivo somehow missed… You go online and are required to watch a few ads — in some cases the same ad repeated throughout the episode. This is the web. Shouldn’t it be smarter than this?

Giving the users a choice of which ad to watch is obvious. Below is a sketch of a concept we’ve put in front of some of our mobile and handheld device clients who are trying to align the gap between users and ad-subsidized content. I’ve contrasted that with what Wired describes as Hulu’s approach.

The user benefit is obvious. They self-select the message they’re interested in, or at least willing to watch. But, what’s in it for advertisers? This is a touch harder for advertisers to create a case for; after all advertisers are the ones holding all the risk. But, there’s also lots of risk in leaving the status quo. The answer is in the numbers; the data. An advertiser can know exactly which ads are getting selected with a day or 2, rather than waiting weeks for metrics to come back. What’s in it for the network, Hulu in this case? They get to charge a premium, hoping advertisers really want their juicy, data-driven ability to serve targeted ads.But is it truly a win-win-win (winners being users, advertiser, and networks)? Time will tell, but I’m looking forward to seeing how Hulu implements it.

I’m going to continue to assert that we’re just starting to see how the web and mobile lifestyle is going to turn advertising on its head. This is just one outgrowth of that. What I’m encouraged by is the evidence that advertisers and networks are putting the user in control (to a degree).

There are of course unanswered questions: how much data are the networks really going to aggregate over time at sites like Hulu? Your play history, your queue, the list of ads you’ve selected over time will inevitably be nefit you as the system starts serving you more relevant stuff. But, that aggregated data also ups the ante for networks to sell your aggregated data to advertisers.

So, user, how much privacy are you willing to sell in exchange for control?
Read the article in Wired

(Thanks Missy Kelly for the contribution.)

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