The Sunday Times piece goes on to describe terrified consumers being stalked online by evil advertisers
I bet most of you didn’t realise you were working in a shadowy world. Or selling the dreams and desires of the unsuspecting public to advertisers. According to The Sunday Times you are. That’s how last weekend’s paper described behaviourally targeted advertising.
Kicking off with, “William Key knew he was being followed - even though he didn’t leave his house for a second,” the piece goes on to describe terrified consumers being stalked online by evil advertisers, no doubt terrifying several million more readers.
Of course, this approach to behavioural targeting is nothing new in the national press, but the prominence and tone brought home to me just how much of a threat targeted online advertising faces from consumer misunderstanding and privacy hysteria. The industry has talked for years about this issue but it’s time for something to be done. This week’s new media age hammers this home.
Targeted advertising offers the brightest hope for brands online. The ability to serve ads to people based on their behaviour doesn’t only help brands reach their target market, it also makes people’s online lives better by making the unavoidable ads that support their favourite content and services relevant, and therefore potentially more helpful, to them.
But the online marketing industry is doing a very bad job at getting this message across. Research by TNS finds 65% of people see targeted ads as an abuse of their privacy, even though 64% welcome more relevant ads. This glaring disconnect mirrors almost exactly research by new media age over the past two years. So what’s going to be done about it?
The IAB has been doing sterling work in this area, and its guidelines have been invaluable. But what’s needed is an industry standard icon on all ads telling people why they’re seeing the ad and how to opt out, as in the US and as offered by UK retargeting companies like Struq and Criteo. The IAB is looking at this but it needs to be rolled out as a matter or urgency.
If not, you run the real danger of your customers being - as The Sunday Times so delicately put it - “freaked out”.