Targeting data will make advertising useful to the end user

I talk with clients a lot about all the data that is available to target digital advertising– Facebook ads, display ads, pre-roll videos, etc.  I am still amazed when I review the list of all the targeting options available from the basics like location and sex to other third-party data like credit score or homeowner and then to interest and intent to purchase information. While at first it can be spooky how a user can be targeted eventually most clients realize how useful it can be to their organization to target the specific user who can use their services with the ad. It is also extremely useful and convenient to the audience, the end user, to have advertising precisely targeting them presented to them on whatever news story they are reading or video they are watching.

For example let’s say I’m shopping for a new car and I’ve made several searches for full-size truck. All of data partners will pick-up on that and put in their list to be in-market for a full-size track.  Now, all the ads that I see will adjust to show me ads for full-size truck from the manufacturers and local cal dealerships. The ads on the site (which I am consuming for free– a topic for another blog post) are actually benefiting me.

Finally let’s flashback to my grandmother who I observed reading her local newspaper, the Evening Times in West Memphis, numerous times. As she aged she used a huge lit magnifying glass to read the newspaper everyday making it easy to see what she was reading. On every page she turned to she first looked at the ads on the page– what was on her sale at local grocery star, Big Star; the special at her dress shop, Colony Shop. The ads in the newspaper were useful to her as a reader, a subscriber.  This is the goal for online display ads– the ads should be useful part of the experience to the reader, the end user.

Two down, 363 left to go.

Predicting your secrets, but not admitting it

We all know that companies are collecting massive amounts of data about us (or we should), but somehow we are surprised that companies actually crunch the data and act up on it.  Sunday’s New York Times magazine addressed this issue looking at how Target has targeted pregnant women

“As Pole’s computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.”

Although I don’t think we should be surprised that big companies like Target know so much about us and are acting on it, it does surprise me that Target has decided to cloak how much they know about us by sending us random coupons, too.

“And we found out that as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn’t been spied on, she’ll use the coupons. She just assumes that everyone else on her block got the same mailer for diapers and cribs. As long as we don’t spook her, it works.”

This randomness is what disturbs me because are they throwing in random coupons to disguise what they know about me or just because they get better usage when they do it. Either way I think they are treading on shaky ground ethically because they are admitting they understand that the consumer doesn’t like that they know so much about them.

Moneyball: which number moves you?

Moneyball is a great movie. Finally watched it last night. It reminds of some very simple logic.

Find the number that best dictates your success. Measure everything about that number. Determine which factors move that number in a positive direction. Measure everything about those factors. Use the most efficient way possible to influence the main number in the right direction to find success.

Don’t compete with Christmas

If I have a product that doesn’t depend on Christmas business, then I wouldn’t advertise over Christmas. All the retail hype and advertising just drowns everyone else out unless you have the money to shout as loud as anyone else or find the right advertising channel that doesn’t have the noise.

It all comes down to the original communications model. Sender -> Message -> Receiver and then all the noise. You want to find the right channel to minimize the noise. At  Christmas the noise is everywhere in all the channels.

Are your facebook ads useful to you?

Yesterday I happened to glance to the right when I was on Facebook and noticed all the ads targeted directly to me. The ads were exactly what I had been thinking about that day… SEO, and CMS.  Wow.

It shouldn’t surprise me. I purchase Facebook ads, Google adwords and Yahoo BT banner ads on a regular basis. I know the targeting options and how to maximize clickthroughs to a custom landing page, but I am still surprise by how the ads were useful to me.

It reminds me how my grandmother used to read my hometown newspaper— First she looks through all the sales and any other shopping interests and then she would go back through the stories. She actually found the ads worth reading rather than something that got in the way of the information she was seeking.

It’s amazing how Internet advertising is coming back full circle where the ads are actually useful and make money just like the small-town newspaper. Unfortunately, this fledging form of useful advertising is now under attack with the Commerce Department proposing a new online privacy bill of rights for Internet users and the Federal Trade Commission proposing Do Not Track legislation.

Privacy online and Internet advertising has always been sort of trade off for me. I give up some information about me in return I receive something I want (information, news) from a web site with no direct out of pocket costs. The web site uses that information to target ads to me creating a better web experience and more value for their advertising.