A forum for online advertising warns about being invasive when targeting based on consumer habits.
Posted May 13, 2005
The overall sentiment of advertising and online publishing executives at "New Frontiers in Online Advertising: A Marketer's Forum on Behavioral Targeting," hosted in New York City yesterday by the Business Development Institute, was that of cautious optimism. "Behavioral science definitely affords some brave new worlds for online marketing," Matt Freeman, CEO of digital marketing agency Tribal DDB Worldwide, told a packed audience during his keynote. But, he said, "it's a cautionary tale: We're capturing snapshots and it doesn't deliver the overall feeling of self. How we use these great new tools will give us success, but it's definitely not a black box panacea. We have the potential to misuse just about anything."
Marketers are now realizing the need for behavioral targeting when advertising online, but they are just starting a hurdle-spiked journey toward fully understanding segmenting. "Behavioral targeting is the answer to a perceived conundrum in marketing," Freeman said. Even if a marketer believes he knows everything there is to know about a particular segmented group of people, human beings cannot be looked upon as a single group--individuals wear different faces in different situations. Emerging technology from companies like Revenue Science and Tacoda Systems is allowing marketers to know their audience better and deliver catered messages to different segments based on individual traits.
Behavioral targeting has the proven ability to give marketers the tools they need to deliver relevant messages to the right people, ideally enhancing consumer relevance and marketing efficiency. However, the targeting can be invasive and presumptuous, and in effect brand all marketers as bad. Freeman quoted a report by eMarketer.com that showed 56.9 percent of consumers mind if marketers use information about them, even it's anonymous. One of the biggest challenges, said panelist Joe Zahtila, vice president of sales for Dynamic Logic, an independent research company that specializes in measuring marketing effectiveness, is educating the consumer about what's happening. "It's coming up with industry standards for best practices and then educating consumers that cookies aren't bad. Consumers are frightened by adware."
Zahtila and others at the forum see the future for targeted marketing reaching beyond the Internet to integrated campaigns that also include television and perhaps, eventually, satellite radio. This way, publishers could still prevent a consumer from being bombarded with constant messages from the same advertiser, but that advertiser can hit that same consumer over different mediums. If marketers are able to explain to consumers that doing this will allow them to see ads that are relevant to them as opposed to being annoyed with impertinent information, the general public might be more accepting of such tracking and targeted messaging, according to Zahtila.
Most marketers are just dipping their toes in behavioral targeting now, so the trend may still be years away. In the meantime Freeman advised marketers not to get ahead of themselves. "It's a good idea to temper the excitement and do things the right way," Freeman said. Behavioral targeting done right "takes us from being broadcasting hucksters to considerate concierges; [done wrong], from marketers to Marxists--my encouragement would be, as we learn more and more about consumer behavior, mind our own behaviors in the process."
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