A number of factors are coming together to allow precise targeting of a wide audience possible.
Audience targeting was developed a couple of decades ago with select cable and satellite providers, but never lived up to its promise because advertisers could only reach people in the geographic footprints of those providers and there was a lack of ad space because providers generally sell only 2 minutes of ads for each hour of programming that they carry (ref WSJ). Now, however, the ad business seems to be heading in a different direction. Advertisers that once did the majority of their advertising through TV ads (Cars.com among them) with ads aimed at any and all consumers, have now switched tactics. Earlier this year, for example, the automotive recommendation company ceased all traditional TV ads and began running commercials on streaming TV platforms like Roku and Amazon Fire TV. On those platforms they had the ability to tap into a great wealth of audience information and thus to advertise only to those who were in the market for cars. These changes are beginning to have significant effect on the advertising industry. The streaming platforms, traditional pay-TV providers and third party firms are all giving advertisers access to “robust technological and granular data about viewers” such as level of income, purchase history and web browsing history. And, at the same time, marketers can use the streaming platforms to reach larger and more geographically diverse group of people across the U.S. So, unlike earlier efforts at targeted TV advertising, there is greater return for the advertising dollar. Consequently, companies are shifting more of their advertising budgets from traditional TV to those streaming platforms where they can devise marketing campaigns aimed at very precise demographics, and, in some cases, rethink their campaigns, midstream, and quickly make changes. A Cars.com executive has said, “Traditional TV is awesome at helping us build awareness and getting our name out there, but it doesn’t offer us the ability to efficiently target people shopping for a car – we’re meeting consumers where they are.” (Ref WSJ). To take into account the consumer who might not be aware that they want a new car, before they see ads for them, the company is also linking their streaming ad efforts with the more traditional TV sponsorships at sports play-off events, the Super Bowl, etc. A number of companies are trying the new combo approach and report good success from their efforts.