The last several months have been exciting times for the behavioural targeting space.
IAB UK is making great progress in developing good practices for the UK, IAB Europe has just kicked off a European-wide behavioural targeting taskforce, the AOP recently had a strongly-attended panel discussion on the topic, increased scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic over ISP-based targeting and the recent ad:tech London conference had considerable focus on the topic.
This has certainly come a long way since the first pitches Revenue Science did with Financial Times to U.K. agencies in the first quarter of 2004, introducing on-site behavioural targeting in the UK market, when no one had even heard the phrase behavioural targeting before! It is therefore very exciting to see such rapid growth in adoption, in numbers of players in the market, and in coverage -- but for all of the growth it is still important to keep one thing top of mind:
Successful behavioural targeting should always take into account what most benefits a consumer.
Is this at the core of your thinking? Does this seem like a surprising statement? Let me explain and give an example:
Give them something of value
Imagine you and your family are planning a holiday to a warm sunny locale. If you read multiple articles and search for family fares to that location, but then receive adverts for a singles getaway to a posh resort later during that visit, then you might have been behaviourally targeted for travel, but it did not go deep enough. It would be infinitely more valuable to see creative for restaurant vouchers at Disneyland or 'kids fly free' offers from an airline.
Publishers and marketers have made great strides in the past couple of years building advanced audience segments, and aligning creative messages to bespoke audience segments, but we can and should go even further. The more relevant the message is, the more consumers will be receptive to, and see the value of, behavioural targeting. This has been proven in the past through joint studies we have done which show that the majority of consumers always prefer advertising based on their interests, and that relevant advertising improves their online experience.
But the key to keeping that preference so favourable is to keep the targeting valuable, and get consumers to appreciate how much a targeted ad will enhance their online activity. From the early days at Revenue Science a key part of our vision has always been that advertising becomes relevant to a consumer when it becomes content.
Give consumers choice and flexibility
But even though there are many benefits to behavioural targeting, and the majority of consumers do not mind it, there will always be some that choose not to be targeted. From our perspective, that is certainly their right, and any publisher, network or technology company should allow consumers to easily opt out of behavioural targeting.
A core guiding principle of the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) is that consumers should be able to opt out of behavioural targeting. And as IAB U.K. continues to develop good practices, this will become even more prevalent.
Because as an industry aren't we all concerned about creating a better online experience? We need to put the consumer first. Like television, the content we get on the internet is funded to a large degree by advertisements. Our take on this situation is: As long as there are going to be ads, we want consumers to be exposed to the most valuable ads possible without impacting privacy. Remember, relevant advertising can actually be informative content.
If you are associated with the online industry, be proud of the value of behavioural targeting, and evangelise the benefits. Whether it is to advertisers, site visitors, the press, regulators, even friends and family, talk about the positive aspects of behavioural targeting and how consumers ultimately benefit. By using real examples of how behaviourally targeted ads enhance a consumer's online experience, you will help to prove the value.
So above all, as you consider how to most effectively use behavioural targeting in any form, consider how it will best serve the consumer and success will be sure to follow!
Jeremy Mason is managing director for European operations, Revenue Science.
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