Friday, April 17, 2009

behavioural targeting = spammers delight

Here’s why I am extremely skeptical over the idea that behavioural targeting is anything other than spammers flavour of the month.

Out of curiosity I attended the IDM seminar on ‘Emerging digital trends’ last night at The King’s Fund over in Cavendish Square.

The first speaker up was a chap called David Walmsley who is head of ecommerce for UK department store, John Lewis, his presso centered around behavioural targeting as the secret to their success with e-marketing.

The idea of behavioural targeting is that by collecting information about people’s activity online - web sites they visit, what they click, time spent, following their travels round the internet. etc - marketers can make decisions on how best to target advertising, email etc at them.

Aside from the issues of privacy (Phorm et al) - these have been well documented elsewhere, most notably by Sir Tim Berners-Lee - so I won’t go into them here - I doubt whether, for advertisers, behavioural targeting actually delivers any better than any other form of interruption based marketing.

What I found most ironic was that John Lewis’ brand is built solidly around it’s customer service. In the physical store the real-time human interaction with the staff is some of the finest to be had on the UK high streets. I’m a big fan and regular customer.

Would it not make sense for John Lewis to spend the time and money to connect that human interaction and service onto the online experience rather than spend on elaborate interruption robots?

David even admitted that at Lewis’ they have not figured out how to make that connection between customers in-store visits and online visits.
And their e-crm mechanic is still based on that old chestnut segmentation.

Even for high value big spending customers.

A real future trend in digital marketing is the seamless integration of people’s on and offline lives. Behavioural targeting does not address this.
It still adopts a brand to consumer messaging approach. One to many.
Ads is ads is ads. The key is permission.
And the object of permission is to build personal relationship, which leads to high value customers. Not just in value of spend but these people are the ones who will tell the story to others.

Traditional advertising holy grail was about showing the right message to the right person at the right time. Behavioural targeting is just another fangled technologically advanced trick to attempt the same thing. Except creepier.

If anything it actually accomplishes less than traditional broadcast advertising. On a very basic level, how does it know who is using the computer, for instance.
In any home there is likely to be more than one user.

In broader terms it does not know why I am visiting any given website.
I might spend a week researching underground Croatian hip hop for a magazine article I’m writing. While I'm being stalked what kind of ads are going to be flung at me? And for how long?

Where is the relevance there?
At least SEM is relatively contextual as it’s based on intention - I’m potentially in a funnel.

Bah, humbug.

blog comments powered by Disqus