advertiserThe advertising industry loves the scenario of the fully transparent customer journey: The carefree consumer makes himself comfortable on the couch with linear TV entertainment in the background. As is known, the smartphone is generally in his hand as the second screen, used to exchange ideas regarding the broadcast during the commercial break. What would be better than being able to follow a customer through his entire journey on all devices?

The principle of Inaudible Advertising paves the way for the advertising industry to reflect the true usage patterns of the customer journey completely via television, radio, tablets, smartphones and computers. If cross-device tracking has so far only been possible in an extremely limited way, Inaudible Advertising can now give marketers insights into the complete customer journey by emitting high-frequency sound pulses during commercial breaks which are inaudible to the human ear but very well recognizable by smartphones and tablets, which then can be used to analyze related information. IoT devices, Smartwear and Video on Demand applications can dock to SmartTV via Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick, too.

Pseudonymized profiles are finally becoming unambiguous

The technical barrier between the analysis of the TV viewing behavior and the online user behavior seems to be a thing of the past and advertisers can start with a cheer, as in the long run, relevant information can be stored across devices within a tracking cookie that is aimed at the Inaudible Advertising: Has the commercial been fully watched? Did the viewer switch the channel? Does a user search during the commercial or shortly after for the advertised products and brands on the net? Was a purchase made -  possibly during the commercial break? All these questions can then easily be answered.

Individual, pseudonymous users are becoming clearly identifiable with Inaudible Advertising and there is not much missing to make it reality. Manufacturers are already able to standardize their end devices to such a receiving principle, and with a firmware update, or via a technical extension in the browser or in selected apps, this can be activated. Once implemented, it is the door opener the advertising industry was hoping for.

Already today the presumption circulates that some TV manufacturers integrate their specific advertising mechanisms in their hardware to create their own commercial breaks in the living room, independently from the linear broadcast principle. Particularly in the use of streaming services, the advertising industry to date still remains left out in terms of paid, ad-free subscription.

What remains of data protection and privacy?

For the time being, consumers are noticing nothing of all these developments, but certainly will sooner or later. They will be surprised about the fact that the classical retargeting advertising measures will be displayed sometimes more and sometimes less on specific products and brands of the latest TV advertising.

That fiction has become a sad reality, which we owe to the modern smart TVs and digital devices with an active Internet connection.

In return, the interconnected television viewers of Inaudible Advertising could kind of benefit at least a bit, because digital advertising blocks could herald the end of the standard gender advertising. For example, male fans of "The Walking Dead" could certainly enjoy getting more personalized advertising instead of household or feminine care products during the commercial breaks. On the other hand, it immediately opens up another horror scenario, if e.g. due to an online search for a potency pill, personalized TV advertising is subsequently seen popping up during a TV evening with friends. If then on top a health insurance is offering its support in the spot for virility enhancement, the privacy could be massively jeopardized.

So, once the technology allows marketing to obtain a highly detailed look at the individual person, the consumer will probably look for the opt-out. But the worst is that the known consent principle is not provided. Inaudible Advertising opens the door to a beautiful, troubled world and raises the big question for brands if they should jump on the bandwagon – or better not.

By Daniela La Marca