Thursday, July 16, 2009

Quit Fussing About Behavioral Targeting

Recently I was asked my opinion on this article by Jeff Einstein.

He attempts to slay the practice of behavioral targeting. He attacks the practice from a variety of angles. I find most of the those angles irrelevant.

1. Consumers don’t WANT to be served relevant ads.

Consumers don’t want to be served ads at all. They also want to free BMWs and houses made of ice cream. Stuff costs money. Free content, tools, and games costs ads. Starting with that as a given, and the choice of a relevant ad or an irrelevant ad, I’m confident that consumers prefer relevance.

2. The CTRs are low.

All clicks measure is a way to see how well you are effecting people open to engaging with your brand at that very moment. Not all advertising can make everyone you want to reach, jump out of their seat and act. You should aim for that and if you have a dollar and the choice between a tactic that will make everyone do that and behavioral targeting, choose the former. But once you spent all those dollars, and still want to change how people feel about your brand, BT is one of several tools in the box.

3. You risk breaking the law.

There is no law. There might one day be a law. When there is one we will follow it. Most of your deepest darkest secrets are bad targeting criteria. And using that data would probably be a moral and major PR problem, but not yet a legal one. Knowing whether or not someone might be in the market for snow tires doesn't require that kind of information.

BT is NOT Spam. We are taking ads people were going to see anyway and making them more relevant.

4. You drain budget

I doubt any advertising budget is higher or lower based on the existence and use of behavioral targeting. Perhaps digital budgets are. But digital budgets are dumb. Marketing budgets is where the allocation should begin. Put the money in the place where it makes the most sense. There are often better places (many better places) to put that money than in behavioral targeted banners, but your marketing teams should have strategic conversations around that, and wrestle with that on a day to day basis.

His last point does make sense

"Much better instead to reinvest your time and money in the fundamentals of a good message and better online destination experiences. Challenge your agency to explore and learn how -- in an on-demand media universe -- to let your audience target you."

With that I agree. At least I would if my business was building online destinations like his probably does. Objectively I'd invest in brand experiences wherever they may live, social networks, mobile phones, the middle of Times Square. But I digress...

A good message and awesome brand experiences are way more important than any of this nonsense. They need to well funded. But there are lots of territories to fill in a marketing plan, once your done creating awesome experiences, and all the people that can find you, find you. Sometimes you still have more product demand you need to drive.

As I've said on many occasions 200 million Americans are going to eat ketchup this month, you can build the best ketchup game in the history of the world, no more than 5% of them will play it and you got a lot more ketchup to sell.

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