We all know that postcodes can affect the price of a property. Proximity to a good state school means some postcodes have seriously inflated prices.
We too know about the various "postcode lotteries", which can influence health and, of course, likelihood to be a crime victim. If you live on the "wrong" side of Finchley Road, you can wipe a million quid off the value of a property that looks identical to one on the "right" side.
The visibility of the postcode makes a big difference to those with status anxiety, which leads some to lobby furiously for change. One group living in Windsor and Maidenhead are petitioning to swap the SL in their postcodes for WM in order to distance themselves from any association with Slough.
According to the London Evening Standard, residents of Whitton, a town in the borough of Richmond Upon Thames, are angry that their TW3 postcode classes them in the less affluent borough of Hounslow. They say this affects house prices and insurance premiums, and have petitioned the Royal Mail to change it.
Can you imagine the uproar in the area if those residents were shown different TV ads to the people living in Richmond? New targeting systems will allow different copy to run in different households depending on their socioeconomic data derived from real purchase habits. Should one share a postcode with people who buy a lot of samphire, for instance, one can expect a different class of copy from those who share a postcode with people who sustain themselves with Pop-Tarts and Pot Noodles.
We must applaud these systems' potential for better targeting effectiveness, less wastage and the ability to encourage new brands to TV. That said, once this approach takes hold, it is likely to concern people more than similar targeting that already exists in other media.
No-one takes the ads they get served online too seriously – if we notice erectile dysfunction or drastic cosmetic surgery ads, we can laugh them off. Outdoor doesn't ghettoise you either as any local targeting is offset by travel catchment areas and commuter routes, which means that quite downbeat areas are graced by huge posters targeted at commuters.
Ads on TV are another thing. What kind of ads you see on TV will become a talking point, from stand-up comedians to school-gate chatter.
Postcode-deniers will have a new worry – what TV ads they see. Could the presence of an ad featuring Heston Blumenthal lead to swings in house prices? In the future, you are what you are ad-served.
Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom
This article was first published on