WASHINGTON -- Welcome to the future of inescapable campaign election ads.
It's the fall of 2016 and a 20-something couple is sitting down to watch an episode of "The Walking Dead" on their DVR. They hit play. Midway through the episode, a commercial from Hillary for President comes on.
The boyfriend lunges for the remote. "What the --" he says. He hits fast forward. Nothing. He hits the button again, then a few more times. But the commercial, about Hillary's commitment to fighting human trafficking, is over. The girlfriend, who works for an evangelical human rights organization, has watched the whole thing. She was targeted specifically to receive that ad, by the Clinton campaign.
Officials at the Democratic National Committee said Tuesday that this kind of scenario is where TV advertising is headed, in the wake of an announcement last month by Dish TV and DirecTV that they are going to allow political campaigns to serve ads directly to individual viewers among the 20 million Americans who subscribe to their service.
"They're calling it addressable TV, which means you can take a commercial and say, 'I want these households to view this commercial,'" said a DNC official, who briefed reporters on the condition he not be named. "So not only is it pinpointing the exact household that you want to see an exact message, but it also happens regardless of what that household happens to be watching, right? So, whether they're watching the news channel or the cooking channel or whatever, they're going to see the ad that you're buying for them to see."
Most importantly, for many TV watchers, this kind of advertising will not be stymied by people who like to DVR their favorite shows and watch them later, allowing them to skip through the commercials.
"If they're using a DVR, it will insert the commercial into when they're viewing it back at a later time," the DNC official said. "The software in it won't let you skip these commercials. It will insert it into your time-shifted viewing."
"It still remains to be seen how this is going to play out in terms of the cost and effectiveness," he added.
Suffice it to say, the cable companies will be able to charge campaigns a nice fee for this service. And if viewers want to pay an extra fee to escape the inescapable campaign ads, surely the cable companies would be open to that as well.