By now it is clear that privacy advocates and Federal Trade Commission employees don't like behavioral targeting. Online marketers are increasingly trying to steer clear of regulation on the matter, with clearer opt out policies and self-regulation. Google is going one step further, by trying to rebrand BT with a new name. 

Today the search giant is opening up its "remarketing program" so that all advertisers can track consumers and serve ads dependent on their browsing history.

Calling behavioral targeting by another name isn't likely to work when regulators come down on the practice of tracking users online for marketing purposes. But at this point, it's worth a shot.

Google's remarketing program lets companies serve ads specifically to people that have visited their site before. Also, it will also let advertisers tailor ads to individuals and serve the same ads to specific consumers for repeated, on the grounds that more views will lead to increased click-throughs. According to the AdWords blog:

"Let’s say you’re a basketball team with tickets that you want to sell. You can put a piece of code on the tickets page of your website, which will let you later show relevant ticket ads (such as last minute discounts) to everyone who has visited that page, as they subsequently browse sites in the Google Content Network. In addition to your own site, you can also remarket to users who visited your YouTube brand channel or clicked your YouTube homepage ad."

Considering that Google claims its Content Network reaches about 80% of Internet users around the globe, this is going to be a big test for the advertising dependant on online tracking.

As I wrote yesterday, a new study found that BT ads are twice as effective as generic online ads. But Google insists that this effort is not BT. According to SearchEngineLand:

"Google doesn’t like that term and finds it imprecise. In addition there’s a stigma associated with it among privacy groups and to some degree the FTC (and maybe some regulation coming in the near future). Thus Google uses the more positive term “Interest Based Advertising.”

When it comes to privacy issues, online advertisers are doing everything they can to prove that their targeting practices are on the up and up. And the remarketing term helps with this.

Google also allows consumers to opt out of its tracking efforts with a well documented Opt Out page. The company claims that out of 15 people who find their privacy controls, only “four users edit preferences, one opts out and 10 do nothing.”

But as AllThingsDigital points out, the page isn't exactly easy for consumers to find. And it will only be a matter of time before we find out if regulators think that Google's efforts really go far enough to explain to customers how their online behavior is being tracked and used online.

Image: AdWords

Meghan Keane

Published 25 March, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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Comments (2)

Ed Stivala

Ed Stivala, Managing Director at n3w media

It doesn't seem five minutes ago that email marketers and web developers were trail blazing (and charging a premium) for personalisation technologies and the ability to create tailored and customised "experiences" for traffic (I mean valued visitors!).

Now of course much of this was trivially simple and often was little more than adding the visitors name to some content. Clearly the concept of personalisation was always going to develop and mature. 

Advertising, is a necessary nuisance online for the foreseeable future. Certainly until some better thinking is applied to commercialisation strategies.  

Connecting these two lines of thought seem to make the concept of a personalised online experience, where you at least try and show me relevant ads that will irritate me less, highly desirable. So perhaps Google have the right idea in simply renaming the activity. After all where is the line between a sophisticated personalised consumer experience and behavioural targeting?

But I suspect that you are right. The legislators won't be fooled for a moment.  Seems clear to me that the "Freedom and Privacy" police will probably draw the line in completely the wrong place...

about 8 years ago

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Paul Lewis

At last I hear a few people say.. The fact that Google have only just got re targeting capabilities is nothing against the stats that say over 50% of marketing folk don't use re targeting strategies. It's been around for a while now and not enough marketeers are using retargeting as part of their campaign mix and opting for traditional optimisation routes such as A/B testing, keyword targeting etc. Wrote a piece on it here for everyone to read. http://pglewis.co.uk/random-thoughts-of-an-internet-geek/2010/03/are-the-same-ads-haunting-your-internet-usage

about 8 years ago

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