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Like it or not, social networks are now a vital part of our lives, and whether we're keeping in touch or consuming news or trends, most people wear a number of caps when socially not-working.
So how do we feel about the idea of Big Brother 'helping' with these daily routines?
The IAB recently reported a £294m increase in online ad spend in the first half of 2012, with display accounting for 23% of all digital advertising, and this Christmas is set to be no exception.
Investment into display this quarter is predicted to continue with retargeting playing an integral part.
So it's fair to say that having browsed online for Dad's new socks or Mum's Christmas slippers, I'm likely to be retargeted with a reminder that I haven't yet checked out.
In theory, these ads should be so completely relevant that I return and convert there and then, but what happens when ads become so overtly relevant that I actually switch off or simply reject this targeting?
The example story I am about to relive could apply to any form of behavioural, retargeting or contextual display advertising, but in this case I'm bashing Facebook.
Despite plenty of scepticism about the famous 1bn active monthly users, there is no doubt about it – Facebook is a goldmine for eyeballs.
The fact that you can now retarget users through Facebook Exchange (FBX) presents an even more attractive prospect for marketers who can target their audience's likes, dislikes, locations, associations, relationship statuses, and group interests with relevant adverts.
So as a digital marketer, why am I moaning? Good question...
I am currently organising my wedding and initially, working out what needed doing first was a ‘needle in a haystack’ scenario.
After the obligatory update to my Facebook relationship status, I turned to the internet to start researching venues, dresses, flowers, suits, honeymoons and so on - leaving a trail of cookies along the way.
So you can imagine what a lovely surprise it was to start noticing a series of useful little ads for these items popping up in my Facebook account. Actually, this is in fact true (you'll never believe how difficult it is to find a dress that four Bridesmaids will be happy to wear), but on clicking though I wasn't wholly convinced the vivid orange and lime dresses shown would fit in with my chosen colour scheme. Nice try, Facebook but still some homework to do.
The next day, I spotted an attractive ad for ‘The Perfect Wedding Dance’. As my husband-to-be has two left feet, I click through. Unfortunately the dance teacher based in Chippenham, and as I live in Surrey I waste a click in taking a look.
The day after, I spotted an ad for a couture wedding dresses. I click... They are based in Harrogate. Another wasted click.
This continued for a few more days until I consciously decide that any adverts Facebook ‘thinks’ I will be interested in will probably be a waste of time to me - especially as I'm now ploughing through my checklist and am therefore actually no longer in the market for most of the queried items in my initial search.
Consequently, in a pretty short space of time I have gone from being exposed to these targeted ads, to clicking through, to totally ignoring them. Whilst the targeting seems pretty tight from the point of view that it is meeting audience criteria, the adverts are insincere and I have tuned out of even those that ‘appear’ completely relevant.
In fact, I am now irritated both that I am being over-targeted as a consumer, but also as a marketer that these advertisers are wasting their time and budget by overlooking the detail in their campaign set-up.
There are already plenty of learnings from Facebook Exchange, but it seems to me that there’s still a long way to go before advertisers will reap the benefits of this display media. Meanwhile, I'm steering clear of Facebook's wedding planning services...