Shahar Solomianik

Since Twitter allows only 140 characters…

When Will We Have Perosnal Targeted Advertising?

with 22 comments

Online-advertising targeting methods are great. As an advertiser, they allow me to narrow the distribution of my campaigns and reach out to my clients more effectively. So if I am after clients from Phoenix, AZ, I’d use geo-targeting. If – on the other hand – I look for people who are interested in dog training, I can keyword-target this term. Newly buzzed Behavioral Targeting can get me even further and enables me to target clients according to their recent tracked online activity.

However, what if I actually know who the people I target are? What are my targeting options in this case?

First of all, you may stress that if I already know who I am targeting, I shouldn’t use advertising as the method for reaching them in the first place. I can try to contact them personally instead. Isn’t that what social networks are all about? Especially Linkedin, which has the introduction mechanism so well implemented in its core.

To this I will answer that:

  1. The amount of people to whom I want to communicate a single message can be too big to justify personal connection. It’s a simple scale issue.
  2. The time it takes to become friends or get introduced to those people may be long. In some cases, I need the message delivered immediately.

Current targeting options do not allow me to personally target advertising campaigns. I can use a mix of other targeting methods to try to narrow the distribution as much as possible, but that’s not really it. Let’s say that the common denominator of all the people that I target is that they’re all video producers from NYC. They’re not just video producers from NYC. They are very specific video producers that I have personally and manually targeted. I can launch a campaign that is geo-targeted to NYC, and keyword targeted around “video productions” very easily. This campaign may as well hit the exact people I am after, but it can also miss. And – it may reach people that I have never intended to reach. If they are exposed to the ad or even respond to it can create useless noise for me or even damage.

What I actually need in this case is a method of Personal Targeting, so I can communicate my message effectively only to those people that I am interested in. I want to be able to put my ads on web pages that those NYC video producers – and only them – are viewing. That’s a truly targeting heaven.

Imagine that while you’re browsing the web, the ads that you see are not ads that are targeted for your “type” but rather, directly to you.

Of course, the only way to practically achieve this is by knowing when its you who visits a page. And in order for this to happen, you must have identified at least once in the path to the page where the ad is. The natural implementers of this targeting method should therefore be social networks. Social networks are the places where you are willingly identify yourself by your real name with the intention of it to be publicly known that you are you.

There are surely some privacy issues here. Although I am not sure those are much of an issue, since the only information the personal targeting vendor would use is the person name. It wouldn’t use any data that this person shared on their social accounts, or any information the person may not to expose to others. Users names are usually completely public on social networks.

Another issue is scalability. It sounds like personal targeting involves very small numbers of ad impressions and future transactions or user actions. Advertising networks are used to work with multiples of tiny figures (costs) with huge numbers of impressions, clicks and actions, and why would any of them develop a targeting method that will allegedly reduce their business?

I think networks business wouldn’t be reduced, rather become more effective. Advertisers targeting personals will be willing to pay a lot in order to reach the exact people they’re after (think Bill Gates), or for their future actions. So the multiples will be of relatively high figures (costs) with relatively small numbers of impressions, clicks and actions. The network will have to carry much less overhead. That’s a benefit.

All in all, having to deal with the pain caused by not having this targeting method, I can’t see many drawbacks of Personal Targeting. Can anyone else see them? I just hope that the major social networks will develop Personal Targeting soon, or are they already developing it?


Written by Isaac Trond

May 14, 2009 at 8:03 am

22 Responses

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  1. hmmmm… interesting thought (from an advertiser’s perspective).

    I think the privacy concerns are more than you make them to be though. See the big debate about Phorm in the UK as just an example where not even the name was involved.

    Furthermore, if I was concerned about my privacy and wish to avoid becoming a target (think Bill Gates), I would look for a way of blocking those targeted ads to maintain it. It can be as simple as using a nickname on facebook, or more elaborate, depending how concerned I am.

    Yoav Aner

    May 16, 2009 at 7:23 pm

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