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MEDIA PERSPECTIVES - December 9, 2015

Editor's Note:


I just wanted to let my readers know that I've created a blog where I will be posting essays and articles I've written on digital and online marketing. It's an extension of Media Perspectives. I hope you continue to read and enjoy!

Here's the link: Jaffer Ali's Blog - Perspectives from a Media Contrarian

Thanks for Reading!

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Brand's Eye View of Behavioral Targeting
by: Jaffer Ali
(Originally Published: 6/9/2012)

A man must keep a little back shop where he can be himself without reserve. In solitude alone can he know true freedom.
--Michel de Montaigne, Renaissance Essayist


I have been writing a lot about behavioral targeting lately. As click through rates, according to Doubleclick have cratered at .1% on an industry average, everybody is looking for a solution for the performance crisis befalling our industry.

Is behavioral targeting (BT) the solution? The answer in one word is a resounding "NO". There are so many reasons BT is not a solution for our industry from faulty underlying assumptions of rational human behavior to the additional cost structure imposed on the marketing process to name just two.

But one must look at BT from all angles to really understand the entire ecosystem to understand its overall impact. Today we look at BT from the perspective of a consumer brand. After all, purveyors of BT need someone to pay for the folly and most often this falls on the shoulders of brand advertisers.

Could it possibly be the case that executives from well established brands might not understand the dangers BT represents to their brand? It is not only possible but likely that brand stewards have very little idea about BT methodologies. They have long ceded operational control to the quants that have no brand DNA coursing through their veins.

The working definition of BT was offered by the FTC:

"... the tracking of a consumer's activities online - including the searches the consumer has conducted, the web pages visited, and the content viewed - in order to deliver advertising targeted to the individual consumer's interests."

Those selling BT technology would have brands believe that the seemingly innocuous goal of delivering relevant ads washes away the fundamental creepiness factor of stalking their customers. Stalking? Yes, this is a loaded term.

But what does it mean to scrutinize every website visit, every search, and every blog post other than an invasion of one's digital life? Can one really justify violating privacy on the altar of efficiency? The Germans got the trains to run on time in an efficient manner yet the "cargo" made efficiency hardly a worthwhile endeavor.

BT peddlers want to avoid government regulators. Of course the government has been relieved of much of the technological burden of snooping on us by making deals with the private sector. It is always the case that the private sector does things more "efficiently" than governments. Orwellian snooping is no exception.

Now, let's examine wherein the value of a brand lies. Obviously a brand's number one asset is its relationship with its customers. It is the trust between brand and consumer that develops over time that increases value. Brand value is created when you create a positive emotional connection with consumers.

Now ask the overwhelmingly simple question: Will scrutinizing and stalking your customers enhance the relationship between brand and consumer? How about doing it under stealth conditions? What they do not know won't hurt them...right?

Relying on stealth is not a strategy. Consumers are smarter today and have access to information. It is not going to be long before a consumer flash mob, utilizing Twitter, Facebook and other social media discover that they are being VIOLATED.

Once this happens, there will be a cry in the land that will be heard from every brand in the nation. And there will be backtracking galore. When Jeff Bezos was off buying Zappos, some knucklehead at Amazon decided to digitally invade Kindle users to erase copies of 1984 and Animal Farm.

The truth of the matter is that brands are exposing themselves to a consumer backlash unlike any other in history. This will happen sooner rather than later. Good relationships are not created through abridging freedom. It was Justice Douglas who said "right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom."

I am aware of the trouble in which brands find themselves. They are at the crossroads of important decisions. One road leads to buying into the BT follies that will eventually create a consumer backlash. The other road leads to respecting consumers dignity and developing creative messaging and offers to enhance relationships.

It is not easy. The road to quality involves hard work and throwing one's weight and effort behind freedom, dignity and respect ultimately will allow a brand to reap the rewards that lie at the end of that path.

What brands need is a healthy dose of common sense. And that leads me to one of my all time favorites, Thomas Paine who wrote Common Sense over two hundred years ago:

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.

Original Article: Brand's Eye View of Behavioral Targeting

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