(Ironically, the article I’m about to bring up was served up to me via Gmail text ads. Seriously.)
Privacy groups slam Google’s “behavioral” advertising plan.
Have you ever clicked on an interesting text link or banner ad because it appealed to you? What were your immediate thoughts? Did you sit there and think, “Aw, shucks, the Internets have read my mind again!” and resist clicking on the link in fear of your computer exploding? Or did you click on the link, find something cool, and proceed on with life albeit with a bit more information that you cared to know?
I’m a firm believer in serving up smart advertising online. I’m not saying this because my livelihood depends on it, but because I think internet advertising has come a long way since 1997 when I first connected to the World Wide Web via a little telephone line. Back then, the ads looked dodgy, the colours were tacky (hello, “web-compatible” primary colours!) and the mistrust was so deeply ingrained in us (thanks, The Net!) that internet advertising was more or less dismissed or frowned upon for respectable corporations.
Fast forward 10 years to a world where 99.9% of the web population searches on Google. Google has improved search technology so that we find things we’re looking for quicker. Nobody is annoyed with that. So what’s wrong with Google using that information a bit more assertively to make sure that the ads that they serve are also in line with our searches and sites we visit?
Wait, back up, why does Google need to serve ads in the first place you say? Google’s official blog entry on this latest ad-serving technology cannot be more frank with Internet users – “Advertising is the lifeblood of the digital economy: it helps support the content and services we all enjoy for free online today, including much of our news, search, email, video and social networks.”
So, as a digital marketer working at a big company, I pay Google to serve ads to you when I think you might be interested in what I have to say. As an example, I wouldn’t want to waste my dollars serving an ad on lawn mowers to people I know are urbanites who are searching for condo sale stats in a major city. As the urbanite, you’d probably gloss over my ad anyway when you see the words “lawn mower” in the middle of your search on condos. However, another company that specializes in condo-sized furniture might see you as a great target to see their latest sales and offers, and you in turn wouldn’t mind knowing that the furniture store down the street specializes in condo-sized furniture AND is having 25% off everything in March.
I’m not really sure what the privacy people are getting their panties all twisted up about. I don’t think seeing ads about what I’ve been searching is intrusive – sure, it can get annoying because nobody loves tons of ads in their face to begin with. However, there’s value added for the Internet user as well when they might stumble upon information they actually wanted from these ads. It’s by no means a completely negative situation, and I think people just need to be a bit more open-minded!
Oh, one more thing? I don’t hear anyone complaining about “behavioral targeting” by tampon makers on the Women’s Network.