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Targeting Lessons from the High Line

22 July 2014 | Blog

Audience targeting on the High LineNear the Visible World offices runs the High Line, an old elevated railway that was converted to a park. It’s a popular spot, and on a sunny day, one that’s consistently full of people.

Now, this is New York. And the High Line connects a diverse set of neighborhoods—warehouses, galleries, apartment towers, business districts. So the types of people, and their reasons for being there, are equally diverse. On any given day, you’ll see office workers on their lunch break, young parents bringing newborns out for fresh air, and lovers on picnic dates. Photographers dot the landscape, taking photos of flowers and skylines, conducting sociological photojournalistic surveys, using the backdrop for everything from Etsy products to fashion shoots to wedding photography (with the proper permits, of course.) Construction workers get a better view of their sites, gardeners weed and plant. School kids hang out. And of course, tourists from all over the world wander through, curiously peeking into the windows of the surrounding buildings.

How can we classify this group as a single audience?

Billboards on neighboring buildings seem to have defaulted to just “New Yorker”. It’s not a terrible strategy—an advertiser certainly gets a lot of reach with ads for storage units and local restaurants. But it seems a waste. So many different groups, each with different needs and different responses.

So what does this have to do with TV? The diversity of visitors to the High Line isn’t so different. For outdoor advertising today, it’s only possible to show one ad to the entire audience. And for a long time, that was all we could do for TV—one ad in any given avail. But today, through household addressability, we can deliver different ads to the relevant audiences. In our High Line analogy, it would be as if a bar along the route could show an ad stressing convenience and Happy Hour specials to office workers, but a different ad about how the bar is a quintessential New York experience to the tourists. Meanwhile, the couple with the stroller gets an ad for a family-friendly restaurant instead, or maybe a reminder that the new crib would make the apartment feel a lot less cramped if they put their skis in a mini-storage unit. When advertising can be sold by audience, it becomes much more powerful—and valuable.

That’s not the only way to do impression-based advertising, though. The High Line goes through a lot of different neighborhoods, and changes character along the way. Instead of assuming all visitors are “New Yorkers”, another method of targeting would be to examine how different audiences gravitate to different areas, and which areas index higher for specific audiences. For example, the Meatpacking District is known for its nightclubs, while West Chelsea contains the world’s largest concentration of art galleries.

Through programmatic TV, it’s now possible to link audience data to viewing behavior to find the networks and dayparts that overindex for specific audiences. Just as you would expect art lovers to be present on the West Chelsea section of the High Line, you can predict where potential consumers will watch TV, with a lot more granularity than the traditional Nielsen demos. This is the kind of information that advertisers today desperately want. Making it available to them makes TV more valuable than ever.

So if you have a chance to stroll down the High Line, enjoy the summer sun and the flowers and the unique view of the city. And appreciate the diversity of the people around you—and how much easier it is becoming to sell equally diverse audience impressions.