Personal — and Minimal — Privacy Concerns

Back when telemarketers occasionally broke through at dinnertime, I was often mistakenly identified as sharing the same last name as my wife. “Hello,” they’d chirp, “is this Mr. Steinberg?”

I’d answer truthfully, “Sorry, there’s nobody here by that name.” This was often met with stammering and usually a quick apology and hang-up. More ambitious salespeople quickly focused on me as a new prospect and started hitting me with the pitch.

Thankfully, I no longer have to suffer through the urge to be polite and rude at the same time. I also no longer need to hide behind a false moniker.

Like the rest of you, I want to be recognized as me. My interests, desires, longings, ambitions, plans, and essence are very important to… me. Though I’ve learned to let the rest of the world in, like most people I still have a me-centric view of the world.

Personalized marketing is becoming a commodity. Though I can certainly be receptive to random, generalized online ads I stumble across, would I be more receptive to the ad that isn’t afraid to say, “Hi, Rob. Want to see what we can offer you?”

That’s the approach the folks at Dotomi bring to online marketing. According to John Federman, president and CEO, you can’t respond to consumers’ needs by shouting at them. You must find a way to meet their needs by initiating a dialogue. To address this, Dotomi offers a way to provide consumers with timely, personalized offers.

The way it works is simple. Let’s say as a consumer, I visit sites that sell things I’m interested in. Over time, I opt in to receive information, offers, coupons, and other marketing goodies from those sites, including

I spend a good chunk of my online shopping time at Amazon searching for new things to add to my wish list. Over time, the folks at Amazon put together a personal profile of me that reflects the types of books I read, authors I seem most interested in, and musicians I favor. With the help of a cookie on my computer, I’m readily identified every time I visit Amazon’s site.

Now imagine Amazon, through Dotomi, works out a deal with other publishers to have Amazon-branded ads sent to my computer in the publisher’s banner space when I visit. Instead of serving the next random ad in rotation when I arrive on that site, the publisher sniffs my Amazon cookie and sends a redirect to Dotomi. It pulls data relevant to me from the Amazon database and creates a customized banner, on the fly. I see a personalized ad from Amazon telling me the latest Stephen King novel is out and I can buy it at a great discount (complete with a convenient link to get me there).

Even with CPM rates in the $20 ballpark, most vendors quickly see the value in spending that kind of money when associated CTRs for Dotomi-based campaigns are currently 7-12 percent (versus an national average of about 0.4 percent).

Not only do the ads generate greater response, but a customized message means ads can be “broadcast” very much as email pushes are. If there’s a scheduled event or a timely sale, ads are only sent during a certain period. It also means new creative can be scheduled depending on day of the week or time of day. Ads can be targeted by all sorts of criteria, such as gender, income, and general or specific interests.

Privacy issues associated with this type of personalization are no different than what’s involved when a consumer visits the vendor’s Web site. Personalized data are invisible to Dotomi. Each Dotomi ad offers consumers the ability to opt out of receiving personalized ads from that vendor.

Because customization data are associated with a cookie and personalization data are drawn directly from the advertiser’s database, the ad and data can’t be used by another vendor.

According to Federman, advertisers who can benefit most from this service include travel providers, financial agencies, key retail, gaming sites, book clubs, and other companies that meet specific consumer needs.

Many of us are hesitant about sharing too much with vendors for fear the information will be misused. Dotomi’s model leaves little room for that. Instead, it allows the advertisers I want to hear from to contact me with offers that cater to my desires.

And that makes me happy.

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