Sandy Does Its Own Targeting

06 November 2012 | Blog

Walking around our neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey after the hurricane left, we could not help but notice the randomness of the damage. Of course, it’s not truly random—a change in elevation of a few inches, which electrical substation our houses or apartment buildings are connected to, even the particular species of tree planted by our curbs turned out to determine whether our hurricane experience was a minor headache, a major and lingering inconvenience, or a complete disaster. But it has created the odd patchwork in which neighborhood by neighborhood—and sometimes even block by block—the level of damage is completely different. Some of us were up and running only a few days later. Some of us may not have power or heat until Thanksgiving. Some lost cars, furniture, even chunks of our houses.

We’re doing a lot of hoping these days for everyone who’s still in the dark, in the cold, in shelters, or fighting to keep their small businesses alive. Collectively, we’re also thankful for what we’ve managed to salvage, and for the incredible work that repair crews have been doing over the last week. It’s been pretty bad, and it continues to be, but it could have been a lot worse without the tireless work of both government employees and private companies from Verizon to Comcast to PSE&G and more, who have done their level best to get our lights on, our heat working, and our internet connected.

While a lot of folks are still waiting for their power to come back, quite a few of us spent a chunk of last week glued to the TV. And it seems a pity that more couldn’t have been done with targeting. New Jersey and New York have never had more diverse needs than they do at the moment. Whether localized info telling customers how to reach their cable companies or insurance agents, branded PSAs explaining how to apply for FEMA funding, or just hurricane-relevant advertising, this was and continues to be a golden opportunity for advertisers to connect with viewers in more compassionate, effective ways. (If a gas company could tell folks which stations still have gasoline left, they would be heroes right now.) Video Insider even suggested online ads on behalf of charity—surely this would have been a great opportunity for a company who wanted some good karma to repurpose an ad buy with helpful info for the folks in the disaster zones and calls for charity from those who are safe.

We have the capability to offer up targeted information on TV, neighborhood by neighborhood, just as the storm was selective with its damage. We can be using it right now, for good as well as goodwill.