New Media Age recently hosted a webinar on behavioral targeting in 2009 and beyond. The importance of establishing trust between advertisers/publishers and their perspective audiences is an issue that came up frequently.
The public's disapproval of behavioral targeting practices appears to be twofold: people don't fully understand the role of advertisements in the online medium and there's a lack of transparency between companies and services employing behavioral targeting technology. For instance, a Federal Trade Commission report found that "questions regarding the types of consumer data collected for use in behavioral advertising, how such data are used, and what protections are provided for that data remain."
After listening to the webinar, I was left with a question in mind: what can the behavioral targeting industry do to better establish trust? In order to better understand the lack of consumer trust, I explored some fundamental ways of interpreting trust and its implications for behavioral targeting.
The Psychology of Trust
"Trust is a psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of another," according to an essay in the "Academy of Management Review" by Roy J. Lewicki and Edward C. Tomlinson.
There are three key dimensions of trustworthy behavior: ability, integrity, and benevolence.
Ability is defined as an assessment of another's knowledge, skill, or competency. For an individual to trust, she must sense that the other party can perform in a manner that meets her expectations.
Integrity is the degree to which the party adheres to previously agreed upon principles. Therefore, trust can occur based on factors such as consistency of past actions, credibility of communication, and a commitment to standards of fairness.
Benevolence refers to the sense that the party has one's best interest at heart. For trust to exist, there must be honest and open communication about the intentions and motives of the party under assessment, according to the essay by Lewicki and Ãï¿½ÃÂ¢ÃÂ¯ÃÂ¿ÃÂ½Ãï¿½ÃÂ¨Tomlinson on trust building.
Behavioral Targeting's To-Do List
With the three dimensions of trustworthy behavior in mind, here's a list of to-do's for the behavioral targeting industry for establishing trust with consumers:
The Road Ahead
The Internet has come a long way on privacy and security issues, starting from e-commerce practices and conducting monetary transactions online. However, use of personal information for advertising purposes still raises great alarm. The behavioral targeting industry must establish greater trust with consumers. As the Tomlinson-Lewicki essay points out, trust lies at the core of all meaningful relationships and is integral to social influence (e.g., it is easier to influence/persuade someone who is trusting).
Without trust, there can be no giving, bonding, or risk-taking. Since most decisions are based on some form of cost/benefit analysis, the industry needs to show the benefits of behavioral targeting as well as behaving in an honest, competent and benevolent manner.
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Vicky Chen is a strategist at Sid Lee. Based in Amsterdam, she works with global clients such as Heineken, Red Bull, Swarovski, and Adidas to create and communicate desired brand experiences.
Vicky was previously a strategist at Naked New York, and started her career as a psychologist, focusing on socio-cultural dynamics and its influence on people's realities and behaviors.
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