When I was asked to participate on a panel on search and behavioral targeting, my initial thought was "this is going to a short discussion." Of course, it made complete sense that the two industry sweethearts, search and behavioral targeting, be discussed in one forum. But is there really that much to discuss?
While the Big Three, Yahoo, and more recently, MSN and Google, offer levels of behavioral targeting, the search space has been relatively dark when it comes to the topic. The major reason cited is privacy of consumer information.
Privacy concerns and behavioral targeting have long gone hand-in-hand. A survey conducted in 2004 by Burst Media found only 23 percent of respondents are comfortable with Web sites collecting non-PII (personal identifiable information) to deliver more relevant ads. Women were less open to being tracked than men.
Two years later, privacy concerns continue to be a hot topic, particularly since AOL's recent mishap involving user-search data. In July, AOL released search data on 658,000 subscribers. It was intended to be used by the academic community as part of an AOL Research site. The plan backfired because personally identifiable information could still be extracted from the data, including subscribers' names, since most people search their own names. AOL apologized for the error and immediately removed the information; however, this mishap created additional anxiety over Internet privacy issues, which again transferred over to behavioral targeting.
The panel, which was a part of the recent OMMA Expo in New York, included privacy expert Fran Maier, Executive Director of TRUSTe. Ms. Maier's bottom line is to apply judgment when it comes to behavioral targeting and privacy. As an example, serving ads with the consumers name in it may seem like a good idea, but for many it's just is plain creepy.
Whether consumers like it or not, behavioral advertising is taking place both in the offline and online realms and, in many cases, consumers encourage it. Every time a consumer uses their a grocery or drugstore loyalty card to qualify for a store discount and/or money back, the store is employing a form of behavioral targeting. If a customer purchases Pepto-Bismol and swipes his or her card, in subsequent purchase receipts it's very likely he or she will receive a coupon for the same product.
Online, the key is discretion. Advertisers should ask themselves the following questions before implementing a behavioral-targeted campaign:
Remember, there are no standards in this space, and not all solutions are created equal.
In addition to privacy issues, the other hot item on the agenda was Revenue Science's release of Search Re-Targeting, which Omar Tawakol, the company's CMO, discussed. Search Re-Targeting has a lot of potential because it employs the best of search and behavioral targeting, including the following:
There's a lot more to search and behavioral targeting than I originally thought. It's definitely here to stay, and as privacy issues are addressed, publisher opportunities will increase along with consumer acceptance.
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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.
Anna's ideas and columns represent only her own opinion and not her company's.