the grass is greener on the internet

Are you being hunted down and targeted?

Why yes, you might be.

Just watched AdAge’s video segment on Emily Riley from Forrester Research’s recent speech addressing Gen Y and behavioural targeting.

They propose:

  • forming an op-out database for those who do not want to be behaviourally targeted – ie. they want their healthcare data to be ignored but are okay with their retail data being studied
  • creating a website where ‘Gen Y’ can post their wants (ie. a car) and receive advertising for those wants based on their information (ie. they’re a fan of BMW on Facebook)

I have number of objections:

  1. STOP taking ‘Gen Y’ as a singular marketing demographic. Generally young people are more switched-on technologically, but that doesn’t mean everyone has the same preferences about how they interact with that technology – that’s like saying all adults buy the same food because they’re more kitchen-savvy.
    (I will admit I have a bias against the term but ‘Gen Y’ is used FAR too much these days.)
  2. When it comes to consumers being able to ‘opt-out’ of having their info in a database, it’s a bit like communism: it might work in someone’s head as an idea, but it will never work in practice.
    People are less likely to bother to opt-out, or may not even know how – it’s a phenomenon they propose to exploit.
    I suspect the FTC will object to it because of this.
    Previously, people ‘opting out’ of telemarketing databases – ‘no telemarketing’ or ‘do not call’ lists – have found themselves part of a new database for all those organisations not bound by the ‘do not call’ list. Someone will try to find a way to get hold of their information, because technically a whole behavioural segment would be excluded if you didn’t have it.
    Of course, the speech brushes over this to talk about behavioural targeting.
  3. …and behavioural targeting will be controversial. But let’s look purely at effectiveness.
    It actually limits the consumer to their previous choices.
    You’re trying to predict the next point on the graph by extrapolating the previous ones.
    Well, if you want to talk about Gen Y traits…youth throughout the ages have demonstrated higher risk-taking traits. They want something new, something off the radar – not something served up to them.
    To implement this assumes that all brands would be able to advertise.
    To have a limited choice would be too generic and take away the joy of search – half the fun is the feeling that you’ve discovered something before everyone else has. (That’s contributed to the success of a little company you might know called Google.)
    Sure, they can still search on their own, but the more they find something they prefer by looking outside of your behaviourally-targeted advertising the less they’ll see value in using the service in the future.

Trading on information is probably Facebook’s best chance at actually making money since the realisation that the most successful advertising involving Facebook has been through apps, which are free to create.

But most people will feel a slight discomfort about having someone else own their information. It’s one thing to post it to share with your friends and another thing to have it being sold to corporations.

Take a leaf from Google’s philosophy… Don’t be evil.


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