We are in an interesting moment as to how media audiences are valued, bought, and sold. Without delving into the problems of ad tech’s promise that selling will be easier if vast amounts of data are collected from consumers, it is clear that advertisers have always tried to measure and comprehend their audiences, if only to sell more to them.
For example, back in the 1920s Stanley Resor at the J. Walter Thompson agency oversaw the development of market research that would appear quantitive, objective, and therefore more businesslike than an adman’s gut feeling. And Lee McGuigan’s new book, Selling the American People
, finds the roots of programmatic advertising in the early television era—when a massive synchronous medium, reaching millions and millions of viewers, had to be harnessed into producing data about those viewers to better sell to them.
This image I posted on my Tumblr
that I found in a 1960 issue of Advertising Age
illustrates that early 1960s era well. In a transparent container (the data capture method) the eyes of consumers (women, of course) are visibly captured, measured, counted, and then delivered to advertisers.