The AP reports that Canoe Ventures, the joint venture headed by former Aegis Media CEO David Verklin and formed by the nation’s six largest cable operators is suspending trials of its first advertising product before it even gets off the ground. Canoe said Friday that it will discontinue plans for now to launch “community addressable messaging,” which sends ads that vary by household depending on factors such as income and age.
The product has sparked privacy concerns, said the story. Privacy groups fear that these ads could lead to unwanted tracking of viewing habits and discrimination against poorer households. Canoe cited limitations of older cable systems, and one problem was that ads had to be scheduled more than a week in advance of air date. Programmers usually set ad schedules a day in advance of broadcast.
Moreover, certain Motorola receivers would have to be upgraded for the ads to work properly. Canoe didn’t want to force operators to upgrade. Canoe is working on a more flexible form of addressable ads for later unveiling that would bypass the older ad insertion systems of cable operators.
It still plans to introduce interactive ads in Q4, in which consumers who press a “request for information” button will receive coupons and promotional material for the product or service they’re viewing.
Canoe was formed last year by Comcast Corp., Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems and Bright House Networks.
RBR/TVBR observation: The technology is there, but like the Internet and similar hoops IAB is jumping through to keep the government happy, there is a fine line between household-level targeting and privacy. Yes, there is much less waste “advertising to the interested,” as Verklin used to say, but when a low-income family gets nothing but ads for bad credit repair, bankruptcy lawyers and quick income scams, it can get a little insulting. There also must be guarantees that the household is anonymous and the name at that address does not match the targeting data—“once you are on a list,” as they say. It is continuing to be hard to convince many in the government and privacy advocates of these guarantees—at least for now.