It’s Filtering, Not Targeting

Marketers operating in business-to-business (B2B) industries must remember their products ultimately touch consumers. Online marketing is no exception. We spend a lot of time talking about the value we can create for one another: publishers, advertisers, agencies, data suppliers, and other service providers. Yet we frequently forget to talk about what consumers get out of it. That’s also the case when we talk about online ad targeting.

Ad targeting helps publishers improve inventory revenue yield, enabling them to sell more ads for more money. It helps advertisers improve campaign effectiveness, enabling them to deliver more appropriate messaging to reach otherwise elusive audiences. And it helps agencies manage campaigns more efficiently, enabling them to reduce wasted impressions and deliver leads and relationships at lower costs.

What about consumers? What do they get out of ad targeting? Why are they the last constituency listened to, rather than the first?

This is, after all, the consumer age. The Internet allows a consumer to pull content and utilities, rather than have them pushed to her. Shouldn’t we change our focus? Shouldn’t we put consumer interests first, and only later determine how to best align marketing and media services to promote those consumer-focused interests?

It’s not enough to say, “Ads are the cost of doing business,” if consumers want free content or believe your ads are linked to spyware. Or, “That’s just the way the media business operates,” when people complain about irrelevant ads cluttering their screens when they want to view a video clip. Pat responses don’t matter in consumer-driven digital media and marketing.

Ad targeting can’t just be about making money unless it’s first about delivering consumer value. When that’s achieved, money-making opportunities are created.

Publishers, advertisers, and agencies must shift their approach to targeting. We need less “targeting” and more “filtering.” Less about what someone wants to push to segmented groups, more about what those groups likely want to pull (or, conversely, want to block).

The value proposition starts with filtering ads for consumers. If we do that well and add plenty of value, all the players will have better businesses. The net result of better consumer filtering will be better targeted marketing investments.

In a world of filtered ads, how do consumers benefit?

  • More relevance. Consumers don’t want to waste their time any more than advertisers want to waste their money. Filter out ads people don’t want, filter in ads they do. You’ll give them tremendous value.
  • Less clutter. Too many ads mean little value per impression. Consumers don’t want to be screamed at by lots of different advertisers with lots of different messages in lots of different voices. Clutter hurts consumers. It turns them off. It also turns off ads’ ability to work.
  • Unique offers. When publishers and advertisers see their roles as consumer agents, they can understand the value of delivering to those consumers special promotions and offers, not just ads. They can offer special rewards for membership, segmented to specific interests and needs.
  • Privacy protection. Consumers aren’t generally looking for more places and people to give personal information to. They provide information when they need to. They provide information when they get value in return. Over time, publishers and advertisers who do a good job filtering valuable commercial offers for consumers and never misuse consumer data will build consumer trust exponentially.

It’s time we think and talk more about consumer value. It’s time to talk more about filtering and less about targeting. It’s more than just a matter of semantics.

I’m sure consumers think so, too.

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