Right Person, Right Place, Right Time...Right Biosignals - The Fourth Dimension in Advertising Could be Deeply Personal

Advertising is one of the oldest industries. From the first paid ad in the French newspaper La Presse, in 1836, to the Don Draper age on Madison Avenue, to today’s giants like Facebook and Google, the holy grail of advertising has always been to understand as much about the consumer as possible, so that your ads can get in front of the right person, at the right place, at the right time. These three dimensions (right person, right place, right time) are no longer sufficient. 

In the early days, getting in front of the right person was hard. Before television, radio and the internet, ads appeared in newspapers and on billboards - formats that reached broad audiences with little room for targeting. As technology evolved, so did advertising. With the introduction of radio and TV, advertisers could target based on channel, segmenting the population to deliver more targeted messaging. For example, delivering beer advertising to male audiences on sports radio and TV channels. 

Although TV still accounts for 50%+ of advertising dollars, the Internet was a transformation for the advertising industry. For the first time ever, not only could we get in front of the right person, but we could do it at the right time. The Internet captured eye balls better than any other medium before. People spent more time online than watching TV, reading the newspaper, or walking by billboards - combined. With eyeballs stuck to the web, and search becoming the entry point for most users, advertisers could target customers further down in the purchase funnel right before they made a purchase decision - the right time . 

Recently, we entered the age of ‘mobile’. Mobile unlocked the ability for advertisers to target at the ‘right place’. Today, not only can we easily target a 20-30 year old female (right person), who is in the process of buying a new pair of shoes (right time), but we target her as she is walking right by a Macy’s or Payless (right place). This ability to target ads across all three dimensions is transforming the industry. 

But there is another wave of innovation that is just starting to emerge - and no, it’s not ‘social’ (I see ‘social’ as helping better inform advertisers to all three dimensions previously covered). In my opinion, the next dimension will be a biological layer - it will be a way of not only targeting the right person, at the right time, and the right place, but it will allow advertisers to target users based on their historical and real-time physical state (such as walking, running or biking) and biological state, using biosignals (such as heart rate, blood pressure and other vitals). By combining these physical and biological signals you could get a new dimension on customers. 

Think about the simple example of Glacier Water being able to target you with a $1 off coupon to a local grocery store given they know you just had an sustained, escalated heart rate over the last 30 min from data coming from a Nike+ Fuel Band, Fitbit or a some new gadget not yet launched. Sure, they could use mobile phone location and gyro data to guess you were running; but, by layering this new dataset advertisers will have a more accurate and complete picture of what the consumer is doing and in the mood for.

Most people will probably push back and say this is too futuristic, too hard or will never be legal - and some of that may be true. There are some large hurdles for this to become a reality, but my bet is that within the next ten years,  physical and biological data collected from the explosion and constantly improving ‘quantified self’ devices (Nike+ Fuel Band, Fitbit, apps) and connected medical devices will be somehow used in advertising.