THE BLOG
11/04/2010 11:52 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Sensitive About My Areas: Media Measurement Company TRA Matches Shopper Data to TV Set-Top Boxes

It was only after five or 10 minutes of pondering the significance of new data from media measurement company, TRA, linking toilet paper purchasers to TV programming that it dawned on me: wait... how did they get that information? The answer, according to the story in Ad Age, is that TRA combined shopper card information with TV set-top box information and, voilà, showed that not only the internet can harvest valuable (in this case, personal) audience data for the benefit of ad targeting.

There was nary a mention of privacy in the story. Nor did it cross my mind until, as I say, I gave up trying to glean the opportunity in knowing that Two and a Half Men beat out America's Got Talent and Big Brother for "the distinguished title of the show most likely to get people to buy toilet paper."

Actually, I think the sentence as it appeared in the Ad Age story probably misrepresents the research. I'm not sure it can be said that Two and a Half Men is "the show most likely to get people to buy toilet paper." I believe the research says, instead, that the show reaches more toilet paper purchasers. There's a difference.

I am a Two and a Half Men viewer (sigh), which is in syndication on local TV during the make-dinner hour in our house. The show is one long sexist bathroom joke. If it is getting people to buy more toilet paper, well... gosh... then, the results are hardly counterintuitive, as Ad Age suggests. Indeed, the results strike an enormous blow for advertising intuition and should motivate toilet paper marketers everywhere to pursue similar, below-the-waist programming.

In which case, we could avoid all the exertions and privacy entanglements that may be associated with matching offline shopper card data to in-home TV set-top box data.

Which entanglements, if we were writing about internet media, would certainly be the story here, wouldn't it?

Unless it's just me being too sensitive about my areas.