We've reviewed various methods for targeting web advertising over the last few weeks, giving you an idea of how different sites use various types of information to target ads. While there is no preferred standard for targeting ads, Tom sums up the process and makes another important point on targeting: We need to protect our clients' brands from potential consumer backlash on the privacy issue.
Over the course of the past few weeks, we've discussed various methods for targeting web advertising. Since my first column on this subject, we've covered the major events in the evolution of online ad targeting. The intent was not to cover every single method by which a site might target ads. Rather, I wanted to give everyone an idea of how different sites use various types of information to target ads, as well as make a few important points:
Lately, the information-gathering process has been under the microscope, given the recent concern about privacy. DoubleClick has taken quite a bit of heat for its plans to merge offline profiles with online ones. Although to be fair, other companies with plans to do the same have somehow managed to slip under the radar. In any case, consumers are now a lot more aware of what goes on behind the scenes at database marketing companies, and more people are aware that ads are being targeted to them on the Internet. As marketers, we need to be ultra-sensitive to any concerns consumers might have about targeting.
Imagine what a consumer would feel like if he confided in one of his favorite sites and released some personal information about himself, only to have that information used by other sites with which he may not have the same level of trust. One consumer may not care, but another may feel betrayed. And you don't want your brand being associated with feelings of betrayal, do you?
The need for sites to gather enough information about their users to be able to target ads is definitely there. One user profile can change all of that user's page views into premium targeted ad inventory, as opposed to low-cost Run of Site inventory. From a site's perspective, you can either build user profiles yourself (slowly) or you can contract with an outside vendor or formulate a data-sharing partnership to build profiles (quickly). You can see how this situation might invite the abuse of information.
The point is this: We need to protect our clients' brands from potential backlash from consumers on the privacy issue. Thus, we should be asking some important questions when buying targeted advertising:
I think asking these questions can help uncover any situations in which information might be abused. From there, you can act accordingly.
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Tom Hespos heads up the interactive media department at Mezzina Brown & Partners. He has been involved in online media buying since the commercial explosion of the Web and has worked at such firms as Young & Rubicam, K2 Design, NOVO Interactive/Blue Marble ACG, and his own independent consulting practice, Underscore Inc. For more information, please visit the Mezzina Brown Web site. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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