Dead internet ideas: The "right" to target

Download video of Doug Weaver's complete presentation here.

This is a very subtle dead idea -- that we have the "right" to target. I include this because, as I look around the industry, I sense a creeping culture of entitlement when it comes to data. "Targeting," "consumer data," "microtargeting," and terms like that are thrown around our business discussions without a lot of care. The content of our emails and speeches can end up in newspaper stories very quickly.

And frankly, I think the average consumer would just be absolutely terrified to sit in at one of our breakout sessions here at iMedia to hear how we talk about their data and how we talk about targeting them.

Because we can, we assume that we may, and I think that's a very dangerous assumption. As we reject this dead internet idea of us having some divine right to target the consumer with different inventory and messages, I think it's important for us to remember the question, "What does the consumer really get in return for all this data manipulation and targeting?" What do they really get in return?

"Oh, you'll get better ads, more relevant ads." Well that's kind of an unfulfilled promise, isn't it? Because it's not really happening.

"You're getting the internet for free, be happy with that." That's kind of a lazy premise, isn't it? We must do better than that, and we can do better than that.

One can argue, and maybe I'm the first one to do it, that all this targeting and audience segmentation might be creating an internet that's worse for the consumer. By downplaying the need for context, we're actually dis-incentivizing the creation of quality content and environments.

I'm not calling from us to walk away from audience buying, not at all. I'm just saying we've got to restore some sanity and find some balance. The landscape that we are destroying right now is the one that we'll need to live in and profit from for years to come, so take care of the earth that you live in.

Now, it's true that the internet privacy legislation that's proposed in the Boucher bill will likely not contain the dreaded opt-in cookie provisions that a lot of us are worried about. But for us to celebrate dodging that particular bullet is just whistling past a graveyard. We ignore exchanging true value with the consumer at our own peril. If they decide that this all goes away, it goes away, and I have four words to bring that to bear: do not call list.

Remember that? It put the phone marketing industry out of business in about 48 hours.

So let's not underestimate consumers and let's start thinking about what we're really giving back o them for all this targeting.

This is the eighth in a 12-part series of dead internet ideas. Here are the previous entries:

Doug Weaver is senior analyst for iMedia, as well as founder and CEO of Upstream Group.

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