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Audience Identification: The future fast approaches


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Remember back when you would sit in front of the television and in the course of your regular programming be privy to a selection of advertisements, most of which would have had little or no significance to your personal life? You’d get everything from air conditioners to bath soaps to beer commercials and if you were lucky at least one of those would be of some immediate concern to you as a person. Well all that is changing now with new Audience ID initiatives as advertisers are investing more into the technology of getting to know their audiences so that they can provide the most relevant information to consumers everywhere.

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Audience IDs are online identity profiles that combine the data received from particular identifiers and then feed back that information to provide a unified scope of a consumer across different channels and devices. Identifiers might come in the form of loyalty programmes, in-app trackers and electronic payment tech that collect data whenever a customer utilizes it.

I always find it amazing how technology eventually catches up to human imagination on a long enough time scale. Take the movie Minority Report for example, a Stephen Spielberg serving of excellent science fiction based on the book by Philip.K.Dick. Not to get into the whole pre-crime thing of course, but in that film, Tom Cruise attempts to escape the boys in blue being on the run and all and under suspicion of murder etc however finds it difficult to blend in at the shopping mall because wherever he goes, an interface recognizes his personal ID (which is tagged on some federal mainframe presumably) and serves him a tailor made greeting, then attempts to advertise material which he would personally be interested in like men’s aftershave and clothing and so forth.

Now we might not quite have reached that level of brand/advertisers to consumers relationship yet but that might be a not so distant future the way things are looking at the moment. Youtube already knows what videos you’ve been watching and makes suggestions as to what you might like to check out next. Similarly Netflix knows how to recommend movies and TV shows to check out next based on what you’ve already seen. Facebook offers advertisers the option of custom audience targeting by using email addresses, Facebook UIDs and phone numbers to select specific ads for specific audiences.

So this basically means that advertisers will now have a much clearer picture of exactly who is watching their ads and can then go back to their workstation and craft commercials that are more relevant and which address the unique demands of consumers, shaving off all that excess of mindless, blind-firing commercial airtime. No doubt these types of technologies will need to be appropriately monitored and regulated lest we inadvertently plunge into a Big Brother type situation where personal information is no longer sacred. On the other hand invasiveness definitely would have other annoyances (imagine an ad bot that starts to criticise your personal clothing choices and suggests you make immediate improvements.)

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Still, the lure of never having to endure another tacky, annoying, repetitive advert about something I have absolutely no interest in is vastly appealing. We’ll have to see what the bigwigs like Yahoo and Amazon do with this.

Is your brand considering using Audience Identification to improve your reach and targeting? How?
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