Have you ever been simultaneously intrigued and repulsed by something? It’s a disconcerting combination of emotions to have. A newsletter I recently received from AdAge Digital contained an article that stirred these contrasting emotions in me and spurred me to share them with you.
The article was about a new use for front-facing cameras. We have become accustomed to these cameras on laptops, computers, cell phones, video games and other such personal electronic devices, but what about on your TV? What if that camera monitored you?
The article, whose title Soon Your TV Will Watch You, Too, immediately gave me a momentary feeling of dread. Is it just me, or does that title have a decidedly negative connotation? It’s very Big Brother. But the article goes on to highlight some very positive aspects of this technology on this recently revealed addition to future TVs. Positive to the world of advertising that is.
As all advertisers know it’s practically impossible to tell who sees your commercials once they are out in the world. With so many distractions, like smart phones and tablets, even if people are in the same room as the TV, most of the time they stop paying attention at some point, likely during commercial breaks. The new front facing camera would have software, developed by Cisco, that would recognize which members of the household are watching what and what their facial expressions say about their reaction (or inattention) to the show or commercial. The idea being, if advertisers know who is watching, they will be better able to direct specific content at each particular consumer. If the ad is more targeted to you, you’ll find more value in it; less pointless ads about tampons if you’re a guy, less inappropriate pharmaceutical commercials if you’re a kid. Seems like a pretty solid benefit for both consumer and advertiser. But what if you’re a consumer, and you watch something you don’t want your friends to know about (ie. a tough guy watching Glee)? What you watch and do in your own home on your own time is personal and private. I don’t think anyone wants their TV commercials blowing up their spot that they are secretly into musicals.
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves and remember that this is still in the developmental stages and the advertising industry is hesitant to even broach the subject. Also, there are some pretty cool features that it would allow to consumers, barring the whole being watched constantly thing. The Lenovo version of the new TV revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas offers a feature that has an ID service that blocks access to certain content or channels if a child is in the room. The Samsung TVs require only that you walk into the room and say “Hi, TV” for it to recognize who is there. They could automatically log you into Facebook, pull up your favorite channels or websites. Now that stuff is pretty cool and pretty handy and easily foreseeable in regards to where technology is headed.
So as you can see, it’s easy to be both excited and repelled by this new step in technology. On the one hand, being in the advertising industry, I can easily see the benefits it could bring and the priceless data it could provide about the impact of commercials on the audience. As a consumer, I can also see the benefits of ease of use and advanced features, but at the same time, the apprehension of allowing something so intrusive into my home puts my consumer mindset in front of my advertising brain. We want our industry to do well and to advance, but not at the cost of the trust of the consumer.
Oh, and I almost forgot to bring up one little point… let’s see a show of hands… how many of us have TVs in our bedrooms? Thought so.