Recent talk around big data, retargeting, and the potential impact on consumer privacy has unleashed a torrent of criticism and controversy, especially in the wake of the NSA shake-up.
Individual privacy is important, and no (sane) person supports identity theft. But we should be talking more often about how credible businesses are using data to create better consumer experiences.
Recent research has turned up a few insights into how consumers feel about retargeted advertising. An August 2013 eMarketer article citing a study by Adroit Digital and research company Toluna revealed that, “Thirty percent [of those surveyed] had a positive or very positive reaction to retargeted ads vs. 11% who felt negatively about them.”
Our search engines anticipate our queries, music streaming sites know what we want to hear, and our favorite e-commerce companies know what incentive will get us to “add to cart,” so why wouldn’t we want advertising with relevancy?
Here are the five reasons I’m making the case for cookies.
1. We Get Relevancy
The age of unleashing a barrage of ads on every user is over. Attention span is short, space is limited, and marketing dollars are being spent as efficiently as possible. If I’m in the market for a new luxury sedan, my likelihood of engaging with a luxury auto ad is much higher than if I purchased a car a year ago. And I’m more likely to engage with that ad than one for a full-size truck. It’s more valuable to the customer to get a tailored ad and more efficient for the marketer to be relevant and find the right person for their message.
2. Power to the People
Let’s be real: Customers know marketers and advertisers are paying attention to their online behavior. So, we should evolve to be more consumer-centric. BlueKai, which provides behavioral data, is taking this very approach by focusing on privacy and anonymity. The company invites visitors to access all the personal data the company has collected on them. The system also gives people the choice of opting out and correcting inaccurate information. Acxiom, the data-mining giant, is also offering similar opt-out features with its newly launched website, AboutTheData.com.
3. The Other Guys Are Doing it—with Great Success
There are plenty of other companies—Pandora, Amazon, and Netflix—that are using similar tools to improve a user’s content experience. And, as consumers, we are happily embracing their services. If Netflix gives me a recommendation for a movie, I add it to my queue. If Amazon suggests I buy a 12-pack of golf balls to go along with a golf bag, I add it to my cart. These services are making my life better. Why would I want advertising be any different?
4. Hey, it Works
Last year, I had my eye on a watch. I added it to my online cart, but didn’t buy it. Ads for the same watch kept resurfacing and I finally broke down and purchased it—from the same retailer that kept reminding me how much I wanted (deserved) that watch. In the brick and mortar world, that’s simply good salesmanship and follow- up.
5. I’m Talking to You, Sort of
Yes, targeting is about reaching a more relevant consumer, but there is still a high degree of anonymity. The ad may recognize that I shopped for a watch, have visited sports websites, and my Internet service is from a certain zip code, but it doesn’t know my name, phone number, email address, or credit card information.
The Bottom Line
We’re all looking for a better user experience. For every way technology makes life simpler, there are five other ways it makes it more complicated (e.g. we carry multiple devices, have to remember dozens of log-ins and passwords, and have more choices than ever of what to buy, read, share, sell, comment on, etc.), which is why we need more optimized experiences. For me, it’s a no-brainer. Whether I’m watching a movie at home or listening to music on my way into the office, I like having a more personalized experience.
Custom experiences are good experiences. This includes devices and services that adapt to our changing needs, and that are seamlessly—almost invisibly—weaved into our everyday lives. Advertising is no exception.
So before we allow fear to overtake the entire issue, we need to take a step back and think about how retargeting is part of the solution rather than the problem. We can build our business by targeting smartly, safely, and with respect for the customer.
Nick Matarazzo is CEO of Jumpstart Automotive Group, an expert digital automotive marketing and advertising company and division of Hearst Magazines.