November 30, 2011
Slicing, dicing and mincing personal data to target ads
The amount of information consumers are making available about themselves, their habits and their personalities online is like catnip to marketers. Witness the recent news that Visa and MasterCard are beginning to use information from purchases to target online advertising. Or Verizon’s recent notification that it collects mobile data (URLs, search strings, app usage, etc.) for ad targeting purposes. The slicing, dicing, mincing and tracking of data has become an industry unto itself, with companies big and small using that information to put messaging in front of the consumers most primed to buy.
Both governments and consumers are starting to grasp the extent to which this happens and will increasingly demand greater transparency from marketers and media providers about how their information is used. Some companies are adding this transparency before people head somewhere that already offers it; Google, for instance, recently instituted a “Why these ads” feature for its search and email service. The ability to opt out (which Google offers as well) is the other key consideration, although some legislators are arguing for opt-out as the default setting. A European Commission directive to be introduced in January would require Facebook to target ads only for those who opt in. Further evidence: Facebook’s recent settlement with the FTC over privacy controls.
The final frontier of hyper-targeted advertising is the biggest of them all: television. In essence, the technology allows, say, a 20-something single male living next door to a late-30s mother and watching the same program to see different ads during the same commercial break (e.g., for Match.com vs. diapers). After a few years of larger and more sophisticated experiments in so-called addressable advertising, the idea has reached, in the words of one media agency professional, its “Sputnik moment.” According to The Wall Street Journal, Bank of America has estimated the market for addressable ads could reach $11.6 billion by 2015. In some cases viewers can opt out from having their data collected, although arguably people will be less sensitive about an affinity for Dancing With the Stars than about the intimate details of their mobile, social data.
Image credit: [jaster]