In what some critics are already calling Big Brother-like, AT&T (NYSE: T) has announced plans to launch a "proprietary service" that lets marketers target Internet ads to consumers using data collected from U-verse and AT&T wireless subscribers.
According to a story in Multichannel News, the ad collection/distribution will be overseen by AT&T's AdWorks division. It is scheduled to begin next month.
The MCN story about the service story drew immediate comments on AT&T Web forums, including one that stated, "Looks like Big Brother is watching," and another that dismissed the move as "nothing that AdBlock Plus can't fix."
AT&T, meanwhile, emphasized that it would target audience segments based on "aggregated TV and mobile data that is not personally identifiable," the story said, probably to remove the appearance of spying on its subscribers. It also said it can deliver ads developed for TV and mobile to online audiences with the same TV creative for online video in a variety of formats.
AT&T said it signed two advertisers to the plan already…but of course didn't identify them.
Details of the service are simple. AdWorks will be able to aggregate anonymous TV viewing data from the base of 10 million-plus U-verse IP-based set-tops and mobile content usage--including what apps, games and videos have been downloaded--by the more than 60 million AT&T postpaid mobile customers. It will then use a proprietary algorithm developed in AT&T Labs to map campaigns onto the carrier's Online Audience Network using that data to target audiences with similar tendencies online.
Michael Rosen, AdWorks vice president of online and mobile sales, stated that the division "is excited to help advertisers bridge the gap between online and TV and mobile media," MCN reported.
Targeting audiences based on IP-based platforms is nothing new. Last month Nielsen, using technology developed by ad analytics player MediaMath, launched its own cross-platform advertising product to correlate how people watch TV with what they do online. The goal of that product is to help advertisers better target Web ad campaigns to consumers.
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