Posted August 23, 2010 8:12 am by with 6 comments

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Let’s take a look at what is being said here just from the headline. The advertising community with its publishers and advertisers loves the idea of being able to target ads more directly to users with the right ‘profiles’ for products. That makes sense. A survey reported on by emarketer from DM2PRO and AudienceScience conducted recently shows just how much publishers love it.

Here’s the rub. The people being targeted really don’t like the idea of giving up what is needed to be targeted. In other words, people don’t like having a lot of data collected about them. Take a look at the numbers below that say that nearly ¾ of those surveyed have concerns about too much data being collected on theme.

So if publishers are excited about something but the people that they must have in order to make this happen don’t really like what is required to take part, you would suspect that something’s gotta give right?

I don’t have a crystal ball about how this will all shake out but I have some suspicions. Based on the past arrogance and general “We’ll do what we want” attitude of the advertising industry, I think that advertisers will do a Facebook. In other words, they will push every limit to see just where (or even if) people will really push back to the point of hurting their efforts. They’ll take slaps on the wrist from the press and even the government because those are worth the upside potential of the revenue.

This cat and mouse game will keep going until publishers and advertisers do something so over the top and stupid that everyone will want to crash down on them in a huge way.

What might be the best way for this to play out, if there were even a shred of long term thinking left in business, would be to give visitors more say in what they allow publishers to collect. In essence publishers would then get the ‘long tail’ of advertising targets. Sure there would be smaller numbers but there would be better conversions which would allow everyone to charge a premium because the shotgun advertising approach gets more accurate and thus more valuable.

Guess what though? That won’t happen. People are too myopic (read: focused on short term needs) to pay attention to detail. Since they have been trained to look at larger numbers in advertising as the most important metric, they will be hesitant to jump into something that may cost as much but reach fewer (albeit much more qualified or willing) targets.

Either way this chasm between the publishers’ desires and the reality of the consumer will end in a worse way than it should. Why? Because in order for it to end well, reason would need to prevail and that is in short supply these days. I’m just sayin’…….

  • Hello. Your blog post is very interesting an helps a lot webmasters like me. Thanks & Looking forward to reading more from you. Best Wishes.

    • Great information. In this day and age where so much is available, I can understand reluctance to divulge too much information. Definatly made me think

  • Frank, this line — “advertisers will do a Facebook.” is an instant classic. Brilliant!

    I use behavioral targeting in my practice, of course. But I have a very real, very consumer-oriented reaction when it’s me being targeted. I notice the targeting and mutter “Oh, why did I look there on my favorite browser? I already decided not to buy…”

    Sure it’s all about frequency. But it sure would be interesting to see what sort of brand damage occurs when someone decides not to buy and is then trailed throughout the web with the same pitch. Or maybe people won’t connect the dots, but there’s a whole new crop of 18-24 year olds who get online privacy better than some consumer advocates.

  • Hey Frank ! Nice post !

  • Kevin

    The game’s already over – what isn’t called out in this article is the fact that credit card companys, credit reporting agencies, etc have already collected so much information on consumer’s the game’s over. Worst case, there’s an opt-out program similar to what’s done for junk mail. But frankly don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  • Gene

    We Americans are too paranoid about our privacy. Seriously, BT helps audience to at least see the ads that are appealing to them. We gave away so much of our privacy unconsciously by signing up to YET another credit card, department store membership, and etc without complaining.

    Ad revenue is a major source of income for many publishers that provide free content for us, since we have to see them anyway, why not see the ones that you might light by giving away some “privacy”.