How to Lose Friends and Not Influence People

  |  April 25, 2007   |  Comments

What do normal people think of behavioral targeting? Do they even know it exists?

There are three reactions a media planner can count on when telling non-industry people what she does for a living.

The first is the blank stare or a nod with the flickering eyes as they attempt to decipher what you just said. "You make Web sites?"

The second reaction is the one where they unequivocally know exactly how you spend each second of your day. They may even claim to have been planners when they were just starting out: "You work for Condé Nast?"

Then, there's the disapproving, disgusted reaction, which follows with, "I hate pop-ups."

Recently, I wondered what these people think of behavioral targeting. Do they even know it exists? If they do, what preconceived notions do they have?

I decided to conduct my own mini focus group. Of course, there's no statistical or even directional application for this, but it fed my curiosity. If you attempt a similar project, be forewarned: despite your best efforts, your friends may walk away convinced not only that what you do is weird but also that you use your "insider information" to spy on them.

My group consisted of six professional adults, none in advertising, with household incomes of $75,000 or more, aged 30 to 45. There was an equal gender split. Professions included a teacher, a principal, a surgeon, a sales coach, a real estate investor, and a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). All reside in the U.S.'s northeast and claimed to spend very little time online, on average about five hours per week (about the amount of time I spend online in a day).

They all claimed they'd heard of behavioral targeting, but based on their definitions only the principal and the sales coach really knew what it was. The rest weren't far off but believed personally identifiable composites were being created on them. I think they even started to worry I had these composites and would start questioning them about their surfing habits.

The teacher and SAHM believed behavioral targeting is linked to their e-mail addresses and worried about receiving spam as a result of being targeted. It was hard to convince the teacher this isn't the case. She kept alluding to a single e-mail she received from an education publishing company she didn't recall opting in to. She said she visited the site once and has received unsolicited e-mail from it ever since. It doesn't bother her, since she finds it relevant, but she worries about the same thing happening with information she doesn't want.

I asked the group if they were worried about personal information being revealed to anyone with whom they shared a computer. Although this wasn't something they'd considered, they expressed some concern. The principal used the example of purchasing several of his wife's Christmas presents on Amazon, only for her to discover them on Amazon's home page prior to Christmas. Typically, he likes Amazon's recommendation feature, but this time he was annoyed.

Another sentiment expressed by the group was behavioral targeting (as explained) seemed a valuable proposition, but they felt it remote from their experience with online advertising, which consists of pop-ups, "shoot the monkey" banners, and "locate your classmates" ads. The SAHM was the only one who cited a positive experience with online advertising, mostly the result of coupon offers on such sites as iVillage and Parenting. She said she wouldn't mind being targeted outside these sites with similar ads because they enhance her life and she appreciates the savings.

The belief that personally identifiable information isn't collected in behavioral targeting was a hurdle for the entire the group. They were all quite suspicious and paranoid about being directly linked with certain information that was then sold to marketers. The surgeon even worried about implications this might have on his patients.

When asked where these preconceived notions came from, all cited something they read or heard. In general, they had a feeling the Internet wasn't a trusted source unless they were on a trusted media site, such as The Wall Street Journal Online. Of course, they were surprised to hear "The Wall Street Journal" offers behavioral targeting to its partners, as does a long list of other well-known media companies.

I must admit I was surprised at the degree of confusion and misrepresentation around behavioral targeting, and digital advertising in general. Clearly, more consumer education is necessary, beginning with gaining consumer trust and demonstrating the value digital advertising and behavioral targeting can deliver.

ClickZ Live Toronto Twitter Canada MD Kirstine Stewart to Keynote Toronto
ClickZ Live Toronto (May 14-16) is a new event addressing the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketers face. The agenda focuses on customer engagement and attaining maximum ROI through online marketing efforts across paid, owned & earned media. Register now and save!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anna Papadopoulos

Based in New York, Anna Papadopoulos has held several digital media positions and has worked across many sectors including automotive, financial, pharmaceutical, and CPG.

An advocate for creative media thinking and an early digital pioneer, Anna has been a part of several industry firsts, including the first fully integrated campaign and podcast for Volvo and has been a ClickZ contributor since 2005. She began her career as a media negotiator for TBS Media Management, where she bought for media clients such as CVS and RadioShack. Anna earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from St. John's University in New York.

Follow her on Twitter @annapapadopoulo and on LinkedIn.

Anna's ideas and columns represent only her own opinion and not her company's.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

ion Interactive Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper

Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper
Marketing apps can elevate a formulaic landing page into a highly interactive user experience. Learn how to turn your static content into exciting marketing apps.

eMarketer: Redefining Mobile-Only Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop

Redefining 'Mobile-Only' Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop
A new breed of selective mobile-only consumers has emerged. What are the demos of these users and how and where can marketers reach them?

Jobs

    • Contact Center Professional
      Contact Center Professional (TCC: The Contact Center) - Hunt ValleyLooking to join a workforce that prides themselves on being routine and keeping...
    • Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador
      Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreAgora, www.agora-inc.com, continues to expand! In order to meet the needs of our...
    • Design and Publishing Specialist
      Design and Publishing Specialist (Bonner and Partners) - BaltimoreIf you’re a hungry self-starter, creative, organized and have an extreme...