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Preference Central

Preference Central has a great solution for targeted ad control.

I try to avoid webinars for online marketing products and services, because too many fall into the categories of broad pie-in-the-sky over-promising or arcane technical details that only Internet technologists or media strategists can get vaguely excited about. However, I made an exception this week with PreferenceCentral, and I’m glad I did.
I learned something encouraging — that someone is trying to get out in front of the consumer privacy or privacy controls debate and that someone is PreferenceCentral. What’s more, PreferenceCentral has developed a terrific solution for targeted ads, which balances the needs of consumers, advertisers, and ad creators, customizers, and deliverers (agencies, media companies, behavioral data folks, etc.). The solution also takes into account the input of interested parties at the Federal Trade Commission (the recipients of consumer complaints over privacy issues) and industry marketing associations whose members include CMOs at the big national brands. This is the way the marketplace is supposed to work, although it doesn’t as often as it should. The alternative is often government regulation that is full of intended (punitive) and unintended (a whole bunch of unexpected and unfortunate) consequences.

Privacy concerns are huge for consumers and brands.

Privacy concerns are huge for consumers and brands.

The back-story behind all this is the use of browser cookies to collect information on the kind of web sites each of us visits on a daily basis (our ongoing interests and our immediate needs, also known as our current and future purchases of products and services). That data is increasingly mined, collected, analyzed, refined, and used to send targeted ads of interest to each of us, especially when we are regularly visiting e-commerce sites (close to a purchase). The obvious privacy concerns of this are being voiced by many consumers, and within this larger group are the “I hate all advertising” elements that further muddy the waters. Most everyone recognizes the role that advertising places in commerce, but you can’t discount the ways that technology is changing and challenging all of us in how we create and deliver effective and respectful ad messaging.
The PreferenceCentral solution is to add an icon to every targeted ad that enables consumers to learn who is sending this ad specifically targeted to them, then providing the recipient with sensible controls to take action from there. Most consumers will recognize that the advertiser is a reputable business and will select preferences on the kinds of products they are interested in receiving targeted ads about. They can also select other ways to receive information (web site feeds, e-newsletters, direct mail, etc.). Control in the hands of consumers who up to this point haven’t felt like they had any. As for the people who don’t like the concept of targeted ads at all, they will be able to opt out completely from receiving future targeted ads from this company.

Ad Choice Icon opens Preference Central's preferences control.

Ad Choice Icon opens Preference Central's preferences control.

Of course, this only affects the targeted ads a company is using and not the general media ad choices in the marketplace. For instance, just because you opt out of targeted ads from Microsoft doesn’t mean you won’t see a Microsoft banner when reading the tech section of the Wall Street Journal. And even now, without PreferenceCentral’s solution, consumers already have the less sensitive control that they need to opt out (their own browser preferences and “empty cookies” command).
I encourage you to visit the PreferenceCentral web site to learn more about how their Solomon-like, technology-agnostic approach works for both consumers and brands. Currently, the alternative tool is the only one to be found in the government toolbox and that’s a hammer.

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Spiderman

Spiderman

When I first discovered the Marvel-ous world of comic books as a youth (I’ve since come to appreciate DC properties in their own right), I got sucked in by some great storytelling (the art was cheesy, but would get better and attract premier illustrators) about superheroes with human problems. Spiderman was also Peter Parker, the high school nerd who got bullied. Iron Man was Tony Stark, a millionaire industrialist with a drinking problem. Daredevil was an attorney, who also happened to be blind.
Little did I know at the time that comics books would grow from a small publishing business target-marketing kids and young adults into a mega-entertainment industry encompassing print, digital, graphic novels, major Hollywood movies and TV shows, theme park rides, video games, toys and collectibles, licensed products, and major consumer/trade shows.
The ads that supported comics used to look like this.

Sea Monkeys any one?

Sea Monkeys any one?

Now, sponsors like Butterfinger take hospitality suites at ComiCon.

ComiCon 2010

ComiCon 2010

It took a few decades, plus the emergence of extra-special special effects and CGI that led to big-budget summer movie-making and comic book character franchise launches, to totally transform comic books into a cultural phenomenon. Now, that time reading 25 cent comics under a backyard tree seems like a galaxy far, far away.
How did it happen? It began with great content. Content that stood the test of time. Content that got reprinted and repurposed. Content that inspired new generations of writers and artists and filmmakers to offer their take on beloved characters.
Marketing content is different than entertainment content. But right now there are too many companies who settle for commoditized solutions that all blend together. Trust an imaginative writer, a gifted artist, a talented filmmaker to tell the story of your company. Give prospects and customers a reason to get excited about the products and services they buy from you. Take a page or two from Stan Lee, visionary. Content will always be king.

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