opinion

Pros and Cons of Behavior Targeting

Joe D
Many Web publishers are starting to utilize various behavioral targeting techniques to help increase their conversions and better qualify their target audience. In fact, in May 2010 a survey conducted by AudienceScience and DM2PRO discovered that over 70% of publishers that participated in the study were offering some form of audience targeting to their clients other than contextual. There are many advantages to publishers that employ this technique such as increased CPMs, the ability to increase sales, attracting new customers and better overall performance.

However, the negative side of this issue is that the users who visit these sites do not see these efforts as positive. In fact 72%, which is nearly the same percentage of users as publishers that used these techniques, of US adult users surveyed stated that they were “concerned” about the sheer volume of information that websites were collecting about them. This is according to a survey conducted by Future of Privacy Forum in December 2009. Only 6.5% of those respondents stated that they weren’t concerned.

So while publishers are enjoying the information that they are collecting and are using it to increase their sales and conversions, they are in fact “scaring” away shoppers and visitors from their websites because of all the information they have collected. This is a definite sign that behavioral targeting does discourage a huge percentage of consumers and that it may not be worth the risk.

Another study was conducted by PreferenceCentral, a company that works with advertisers to allow the ads to be managed by the consumers themselves. Consumers were positive about having an influence over what ads were shown to them; however their reception to this idea of targeting advertisements decreased drastically once they learned that the ads were selected based upon their on-site behaviors.

It is not all gloom and doom, however, as there were two factors discovered during this study that can give hope to publishers that are interested in this technology. First, when consumers were told that the data that had been collected about them was not personally identifiable and completely anonymous they were relieved. Second, when consumers were told that there was a control solution in-place that would let them manage the information that was being used about their behaviors, they were also more receptive.

This information is definitely a key to any marketer’s success with behavioral targeting technology. It is important that marketers get “the word out” regarding the anonymous and safeguarding nature of the data that is collected in order to educate consumers about the safety of the technique. However, it may be a hard sell due to the fact that many consumers aren’t interested in helping retailers to develop “better advertisements” so they just might not care.

However, if information does not get out to consumers about having control of what information is tracked about them and how it is tracked, they may resort to contacting government officials for privacy intervention on their behalf. The Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. is already investigating the idea around a “do-not-track” list for advertising online, similar to the telemarketing law that provides a do-not-call list for consumers.

The bottom line is – behavior targeting must be done right, and the public must be educated about their options, or the Feds could just pull the plug on the technology as a whole.

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