Targeted Advertising

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Earlier this week, I was distressed to read (online) that long-time b2b publisher Penton had made a decision to give up on print. At first, I thought the move to all-digital applied across the board to each and every Penton trade magazine. Turns out it is strictly their tech group titles. With the cost of paper, ink, and press time combined with the explosion of tablets and e-readers, it is mighty tempting for publishers to give up on their print properties, especially if pages are down and advertisers are off.

I’m a print guy and always will be. I’d far rather hold a newspaper, magazine, or book in my hands, than strain my eyesight scrolling, adjusting screens, and absorbing pixels. Also, as our art director pointed out this week, doctors and hair salons are never going to fill their waiting rooms with stacks of Kindles and iPads.

However, some publishers are making the most of digital platforms and they are making it harder for print to keep up. QR codes and MS Tags are being used (some would say overused) to link ads to relevant online content and measurability. Meanwhile, ICIS and others are producing digital platforms that integrate rich media. Our client, Graham Engineering, was able to run a full page ad in the print issue. Then, we adapted it for their digital issue on the Ceros platform, integrating an extended video clip within the space of the ad (see page 6).  Sure beats banner and pay per click advertising.

The other way to look at this is for publishers being in the content business and connecting with readers (viewers?) in the way(s) that each prefers — print publication, digital version of print publication, web site, video clips, e-newsletters, webinars, in-person at events (and virtual events), and of course, all the flavors of social media.

It can be done and it is working . I had that reinforced by Michael Pitts this week, a hard-working ad sales rep doing his job the old-fashioned way, making face-to-face appointments with new prospects. What was he selling? The Philadelphia Tribune Media Group properties. Yes, the oldest, continually running African- American newspaper (since 1884) is still going strong. It was thrilling to hear that weekly print circulation is at 221,977, the vast majority of delivered to subscribers’ front steps. That’s a loyal and engaged readership.

The Philadelphia Tribune is America's longest-running African-American newspaper published continuously since 1884.

The Philadelphia Tribune is America's longest-running African-American newspaper published continuously since 1884.

The Tribune hasn’t been content to rest on its considerable laurels either. In recent years, it has launched Metro editions taking it to specific Philly neighborhoods, as well as the Delaware and Montgomery County suburbs. It has also added special print publications like the Sojourner, a quarterly visitor’s guide to the region, and the Tribune magazine, with special editions on the Most Influential African Americans, Top African American Attorneys, and Women of Achievement.

Of course, like most newspapers, the Tribune has made its web site its 24/7 news platform, off which to build content for print via what is happening right now, what is engaging readers, and what demands the longer, more thoughtful coverage that print allows. Also, getting two-way conversations going via social media community pages. As Michael noted, the tragic passing of Whitney Houston has generated the kind of interest locally that it has nationally. PhillyTrib.com offers some outstanding run of site ad opportunities, as well as rich media ad units that are going to reward sponsors generously.

I tire of the debate that digital is killing print. I’d far rather see examples like a 125-year-old newspaper continuing to successfully publish by delivering great content that doesn’t divide print and digital, but balances it instead.

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Gillette spends a lot of money on big budget well-made razor and blade advertising.

Gillette spends a lot of money on big budget well-made razor and blade advertising.

In a digital marketplace crowded with marketing channels and marketing messages, businesses are faced with the age-old question — How do you cut through the clutter to get attention? With awesome creative, of course!

I just watched a late-night tv commercial from Gillette for ProGlide shaving cartridges that promises to last 5 weeks before dulling. It was aimed at the young male 20something demographic. It featured global travel, exotic locales, and the idea of around the world on a single blade. It was excellent in a big budget epic way. I’ve recently seen another well-done Gillette commercial for the Fusion ProGlide Styler featuring noted music and acting personalities with facial hair, André 3000, Adrien Brody, and Gael Garcia Bernal. A fresh approach in a competitive category. I’ve also stopped by the men’s shaving aisle during a grocery run and been overwhelmed by blade choices. Survey Gillette’s product lineup here for what I mean. Add in Schick’s offerings and it can be genuinely stupefying to remember what brand and version is in your own medicine cabinet. What’s more, razor blades now all come in plastic lockboxes that need to be opened at checkout in order to prevent shoplifting of these increasingly high-priced personal care necessities.

I’m guessing Michael Dubin found himself similarly challenged to buy and pay for a razor and blades when he conceived his new start-up DollarShaveClub.com. A blade of the month club? Sounds like it may have been something tried and failed during the dot.com boom and bust period. Wrong. This enterprise is 2.0 conceived, built, and rolling.

I dare you to watch this YouTube viral gem without chuckling multiple times at how well-crafted on a micro budget it is. This isn’t Victor Kiam “I liked the shaver so much I bought the company” — it is Michael Dubin taking you behind the scenes at his entire start-up operation to cheekily demonstrate why his blades are so inexpensive and such great values at the same time. The clip is so entertaining that it has already been featured content on Mashable , All Things D, and Huffington Post and is already over one million views on YouTube.

The DollarShaveClub web site is very focused and offers good, better, best choices.

The DollarShaveClub web site is very focused and offers good, better, best choices.

But the terrific creative doesn’t end there. The DollarShaveClub.com web site itself is a model of smart sales copy, good/better/best consumer choices, terrific graphic design, and ease of e-commerce. In other words, creative and commerce are in collusion for maximum results. Big package goods corporations have a lot invested in brand identities and line extensions, including big ad production and media budgets to feed the sales pipeline. Michael Dubin doesn’t have those luxuries. But he does have a winning concept and an awesome creative vision.

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The definition of advertising has gotten stretched in some weird digital ways lately and it is only getting worse.  When I received this e-blast yesterday from IBM company, Coremetrics, my head came very close to exploding in the style of David Cronenberg’s 1981 sci fi flick “Scanners.” There isn’t much that gets my attention in the way of templated assembly-lined e-mails, but this one broke through all the clutter. Unfortunately, it was not in a good way. This isn’t Big Blue’s finest hour.

Coremetrics confuses with this e-mail that has little to do with true advertising.

Coremetrics confuses with this e-mail that has little to do with true advertising.

The word, Advertising, drew me in strictly by way of association, because I am in the profession, and only because it was the largest font on the page. That’s not setting the bar very high. I skimmed the copy to see what Coremetrics was selling. The promise of a free white paper led me to the following instructive title: “Appropriate Attribution: Addressing the Dramatic Inaccuracies Associated with Last-Based Campaign Attribution in Digital Analysis.” Now, I admit I am not an online media metrics wonk, but I know a few and if they were ever confronted with this phraseology, their craniums would self-immolate, too.

Granted, complex tech topics depend on audience knowledge of industry trends, jargon, and conventional wisdom and methods. However, this is the very antithesis of what advertising and marketing stand for — copy and design working together to dramatically and effectively convey a single simple idea. Eventually, if anyone ever gets that far, there is a Voice of Reason web site that explains this e-mail campaign and the Coremetrics value proposition in great detail.

And that in a nutshell is my main gripe with online advertising — it may be measurable, it may be metrics-rich, it may be analyzable, but it is seldom anything I would describe as advertising.  Similarly, Google deserves special derision for naming its PPC program, Adwords. Random search words on a web page do not an ad make. They may fall under a marketing budget and they may generate a lot of revenue for Google, but they are not ads.

As the economy and business continue to flop around on the deck like a fish desperate for H2O, many companies (including some in the Fortune 500) seem to miss basic truths and common sense approaches. I recently saw the chief marketing officer of a large global chemical company proudly quoted about the transformation of his employer into a company now known for science instead of chemicals. The problem is that the products his company manufactures and sells are chemicals. The products that his customers buy are chemicals. He can market science all he wants, and thought leadership is important, but he ultimately risks confusing prospects.

As Coremetrics’ approach ably demonstrates, clarity is in short supply these days. I’ll take the measurability of a revelatory, idea-and-results-driven print or broadcast ad’s two-by-four upside the head Eureka moment over any click-through rate any day.

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I often marvel at how advertising media planners never reach the saturation point. There is seldom a lack of worthwhile media options for an advertiser. There is almost always an overload of places to advertise on a limited budget.

As noted in last week’s post, that is definitely the case these days on the local level (any business with a well-defined geographic territory).  Even that is changing — for example, Mallon’s, a wonderful Ocean City, NJ bakery used to rely on summer vacationer business; now, it does e-commerce and I can arrange to ship its marvelous sticky buns to my aunt in Texas.

Matchbin is helping local media and local advertisers leverage digital.

Matchbin is helping local media and local advertisers leverage digital.

The other month I responded to a print ad in the Norristown Times Herald advertising a free online and search engine marketing seminar. I was curious about what a local newspaper might say on the subject. Turns out, a lot. They, and all of the Journal Register newspapers locally (Pottstown Mercury, Lansdale Reporter, Phoenixville Phoenix, West Chester’s Daily Local News, The Trentonianthe Delaware County Daily Times, and others) are wisely partnering with Bountiful, UT-based digital media company, Matchbin, to help expand their traditional media options to local advertisers.

There isn’t anything unique that Matchbin is offering that advertisers can’t find elsewhere in some form. It is the scope of content management system-based offerings that Matchbin has, enabling a local business to manage its marketing and online business across multiple media and outlets.

Through the Times Herald (and other Journal Register papers), advertisers can continue promoting via print, web, or a combination, plus get featured status in an FYI: Central Montco Online Business Directory. To this, these businesses can add a range of Matchbin tiered programs to match needs. To boost local Google rankings, they can create a templated landing page or mini web-site that through Matchbin’s network will put them on the first page of Google search, so local prospects can find them. If they want to promote via video, there’s a video package. If they want to launch e-commerce, there is an e-commerce package. If they want to set up and manage multiple social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.) and business reputation, they can via one dashboard. There are additional options to set up blogs, to create couponing and special offers, to promote via testimonials, and to reach out to prospects and customers via mobile phone marketing.

The Journal Register papers can help advertisers find a Matchbin program that fits their needs and budget (the tiered programs are priced right). And local businesses can more easily manage their marketing and business-building without taking them away for extended “hands on” periods from their businesses. These are not one-size-fits-all solutions — they are well-thought-out programs to help local businesses that don’t have Coke’s global marketing budget to raise their profiles dramatically within their communities (geo and social).

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JesusHatesObama.com spot was rightly banned from this year's SuperBowl.

JesusHatesObama.com spot was rightly banned from this year's SuperBowl.

The big game isn’t even here yet, but some businesses are already leveraging the attention that the SuperBowl brings. Two advertisers have already gotten the boot from Fox Sports for spots too controversial for prime time. I’m sure neither business ever expected their commercials to air and are all too happy to be basking in the resulting “news” attention from being banished to viral YouTube heaven.

Here is a link to the story behind banned commercial number one — an online store that sells “humorous” novelty items. It was launched by a supposed conservative comedian. His site is called JesusHatesObama.com. The spot depicts bobblehead dolls of President Obama and Jesus, with the latter scowling at the former and the former mysteriously bobbling off a ledge into a glass of water.

HahahaNOT. This spot isn’t funny. It is just dumb. Last time I checked, Jesus never expressed hatred for anyone, even the moneychangers in the temple (they did piss him off, though). And while President Obama has a knack for pissing off conservatives, of which I count myself, this spot is not remotely humorous. It isn’t goofy. It is just lame.

I am not above a good “Jesus hates” joke, however, which is why when I saw this tee shirt in a window on South Street, I had to laugh and I had to snap a cellphone photo.

Some "Jesus hates" jokes are actually funny.

Some "Jesus hates" jokes are actually funny.

Not sure the exact reason for Fox’s decision, but they are entitled to make a decision based on their own broadcast standards. I am just glad this terrible idea for a web site and a political statement is not going to get any additional exposure during the SuperBowl.

Banned spot number two is troubling for a far different reason. Read all about it here. It is for a matchmaking (hooking up?) web site known as AshleyMadison.com. Its business model? Enabling those interested in extra-marital affairs to meet like-minded individuals. The site itself got a lot of negative publicity when it launched a few years ago. The fact that it is going strong enough to pay for a SuperBowl commercial is a sad sign of the times.

I remember seeing its founder interviewed on TV and explaining that his site is strictly business. He is filling a need and if he didn’t start AshleyMadison.com, someone else would. Great, can we expect him to follow up soon with HitsRUs.com for those who want to hire an assassin anonymously? The most recent example of this muddled thinking was PA Governor Ed Rendell going medieval on Leslie Stahl during a 60 Minutes interview about the state forging ahead with casino gambling. The governor was enraged that Stahl and her team just didn’t get it that PA residents with gambling problems were going to gamble regardless of whether the state was making money off their vice or not. So, PA might as well make up some of their revenue shortfalls. Right? Wrong.

One way to start righting wrongs is to stop creating additional wrongs. We’re sluicing down some slippery slopes, folks. Hats off to Fox for refusing to be party to either sorry spectacle.

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Capture The Tag is the first great cross-media marketing campaign of 2011.

Capture The Tag is the first great cross-media marketing campaign of 2011.

This week, we got a call from long-time friend of the agency, Lee Wojnar. We and Lee go back a ways, to when he was a terrific professional photographer and early digital imaging pro with his own studio on 4th Street, just down from Philly landmark, Jim’s Steaks. After giving all that up (even the cheesesteaks) and saying Westward Ho for major responsibilities at Intel, Lee moved up a few times since, and is now VP of Marketing for the O Bee Credit Union in Tumwater, WA (the thriving credit union of the once but now defunct Olympia brewery). He has always done great work, and is always looking to leverage new technologies, but this week, he really hit his stride (although it isn’t an overnight success — he confided he has been putting this together for the past six months).

Newton helps Lee with occasional PR and such was the case for this new promotion he has launched with several partners in the Olympia area. You can read our official news release on “Capture The Tag” here.  But more significant is the instant buzz this promotion is generating. Incredibly, over 360,000 pages of coverage posted already according to Google.

Capture The Tag's announcement has already generated over 360,000 pages of coverage.

Capture The Tag's announcement has already generated over 360,000 pages of coverage.

The reasons are many. “Capture The Tag” is a fun variant of the old camp favorite, but updated for everyone armed with a smartphone. Nice cash prizes and iPads are the incentives to participate, but to win you have to collect all 30 Microsoft tags located at businesses around town (each tag leads to a new clue). Some of the tags are tags for that business, but there are also 10 tags devoted to short videos on personal financial education. To win, you also need to be present at the drawings of confirmed 30 tag collectors, at a large-scale party and networking event.

The promotion leverages latest technology and social media to attract Generation X participation (a demographic group sought by so many businesses, but not easily cracked). Lee chose Microsoft tags because he preferred the added functionality they offer over QR codes. Microsoft tags are 2D barcodes that connect real world objects to information and interactive experiences when scanned via the Tag Reader app on smartphones. In addition to the “Capture The Tag” web site, the tags lead participants to Facebook and Twitter pages and YouTube videos.

“Capture The Tag” also leverages traditional media. Two of the sponsors are the leading local radio station, 94.5 ROXY, and the leading daily newspaper, The Olympian.

The real meat lies under the surface, however. “Capture The Tag” feeds useful personal financial tidbits to make the audience smarter about credit, fraud, and saving, lessons in short supply these days. The promotion and the educational component have the backing and sponsorship of the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions.

The ultimate purpose is local economic development. The promotion brings participants into the “bricks and mortar” locations of 20 area businesses to collect their Microsoft tags. “No purchase necessary” to scan their tags, but while in these shops and restaurants, game players just might buy a thing or two. Or come back again (and again).

Last year, Old Spice scored big points as a marketing campaign that leveraged new and old media in clever ways on a national level. With “Capture The Tag,” O Bee Credit Union just showed you can do the same on the local level, connecting a tech audience with local businesses, teach a few financial lessons, and have great fun in the process. It is wildly original, but deserves to be copied, so its benefits can trickle out to many more communities. We always knew Lee Wojnar was smart and creative. But he just hit a tape measure “thinking outside the park” home run.

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AdweekMedia/Harris Poll says banner ads aren't cutting it.

AdweekMedia/Harris Poll says banner ads aren't cutting it.

The other day, an AdweekMedia/Harris Poll caught my eye. It was about which type of advertising most often gets ignored. An overwhelming 42% of respondents said Internet banner ads. Can’t say that surprised me. Despite a variety of formats, online readers have a tendency to spend time instead with editorial and video content on the web pages they visit. Driving web traffic and measuring results remain the major reasons to advertise in this medium.
But banners have never been a great canvas. Even fractional print ads offer more generous real estate for attracting attention and building brands. Occasionally, I see a banner that generates a smile or piques my curiosity. More often, I don’t notice because too many banners are just web wallpaper.
Case in point is this effort on behalf of a small advertiser by the name of Sheraton Hotels running on the pages of the Philadelphia Business Journal web site. The banner invites readers to rediscover Sheraton, but doesn’t give so much as a single visual hint why someone might want to. Actually, there is a sub-head that says “Featuring $6 BILLION in enhancements and over 180 new or redesigned hotels.” Great, why didn’t Sheraton set aside a few of those billions to assist in the advertising of all these terrific new hotel properties?

Sheraton spent billions on its hotels, peanuts on its web ads.

Sheraton spent billions on its hotels, peanuts on its web ads.

Not so much as a glimpse of all that excitement. Just muted colors, a curlicue that looks like a vine in need of trimming, and type that is too small to read. The tag under the Sheraton logo is too small to be read without a zoom lens. Then, there’s the separate signature for spg, a cryptic unreadable acronym that spells Starwood Preferred Guest for those who are adept at deciphering eye charts.
Maybe that’s the new approach — get noticed by going small and forcing readers to really scrutinize the fine print. I’ll take a big idea in just about any other medium any day.

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The familiar AOL symbols when Aol was familiar

The familiar AOL symbols when Aol was familiar

I have to admit, I have had America Online frozen in time. The company that brought dial-up Internet and e-mail service to every household in the United States (even if you weren’t a customer, you received one of their membership kits on CD by mail) faded into obscurity thanks to broadband, Google, mobile, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a long list of other digital brands and technologies. Everyone can make that instant “You’ve Got Mail” leap to the not-very-distant past, but fewer and fewer of us visit America Online in our daily on line routines. I still have a free Aol e-mail account, but haven’t opened my mailbox in over a year, because I am frightened of being greeted by a 60 GB wall of spam.

Aol's ubiquitous membership kit markeing campaign

Aol's ubiquitous membership kit markeing campaign

That’s why I was surprised to get a call from my son who has had a part-time college and summer job with an online video syndication platform start-up called 5min Media. “Dad, Aol just bought my employer for a reported 65 million dollars.” I was stunned. I didn’t know that Aol still had 65 million dollars. And what were they doing buying a small firm with a more cleverly targeted variant of YouTube?
Turns out Aol has been on a shopping spree. They also purchased video creator and distributor Studio Now in January and IT news blog TechCrunch and Thing Labs, creator of social network content sharing software Brizzly in recent days. In addition, AOL has been hiring writers to focus on increasing the amount of original content on its networks. This all followed a serious stock price plunge and the decision to reinvent itself. I am increasingly intrigued by this storyline and wish Aol well. Large corporations that survive do so by keeping up with and hopefully starting new trends. It’s been a long time since people associated IBM with international sales of business machines. Or GE with light bulbs.

Project Devil is Aol's ambitious new approach to improve web advertising.

Project Devil is Aol's ambitious new approach to improve web advertising.

With all that news as context, I was not at all surprised to see a four-color Aol spread in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal advertising a new direction for web advertising called Project Devil. Even better, it touched on a hot button of mine. The miserable advertising experience and canvas delivered by most web sites. Too many pages have been overseen by neither an art director nor a production manager. They look like they’ve been spewed out by a blender without a lid. Banner ads. text ads. Popups. Sponsor logos. Video clips. All splattered on the page, some blending with, and blurring the lines between, editorial and advertising content. Is it any wonder why no one gets excited about interactive ads, let alone interactive ad campaigns. Measurable, yes. Memorable, hardly.
Aol is attempting to pioneer a new direction with Project Devil. They have discovered the value of white space and a designer’s eye. They are presenting a new view that draws obvious lines between editorial and advertising And gives both room to breathe. So far, it is hard to tell how much of this is wishful thinking and how much is a deliverable universal format. Will this clean uncluttered approach be available only on the Aol network or will it be transferable to other sites and communities, too? The danger in this is that people will soon grow tired of a Project Devil web page, because it looks like every other Project Devil web page. At least for now, it’s a great new look and a bold new direction for Aol.

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College Marketing Materials: From Here To Infinity

College Marketing Materials: From Here To Infinity

We had a new business meeting this week with the marketing director of a local college. That meeting was about continuing ed, but it prompted me to visit a shopping bag I had kept in the corner of my office after my son headed to campus last fall. The bag was a collection point for all the undergraduate marketing materials he’d received over the course of junior through senior year of high school, from colleges large and small, near and far, looking to fill their freshman class. Hundreds of suitors, who all knew that only one would ultimately be chosen. The Miss America pageant and the nickel slots in Atlantic City offer better odds.
I took the occasion to review many of these postcards, direct mail letters, multi-panel mailers, view books, and other forms of solicitation. Most were also replicated in e-mail form and some with personal web pages (PURLs). It was an incredible example of target marketing run amuck. The deluge began some time after my son’s data was entered online for the taking of the SATs. Multiply him by the number of college-bound students in every high school across the country and you start to get a sense of the crazy business model of higher ed admissions. The goal is to fill as many seats as possible, with the best and brightest you can attract. You have them, hopefully, for three additional years. But every fall, it’s musical chairs all over again.
I was struck by how many images and messages blurred together from one institution to another. All were professionally crafted. Only a few stood out as remotely unique. Campuses and ivy covered buildings look like they were shot for National Geographic. Students are shown with blissful expressions of living in a better place (Brigadoon? Away from home?). Each is chosen by central casting to fill a diversity rainbow and for their Ralph Lauren model looks. Touch football games are big. So is the promise of study abroad programs. Slogans with the words future, career, imagine, and vision abound. There were quite a few mailings with “green” sustainability themes. Given the small forest shown here spread across our conference room table, I got a chuckle out of that conceit.
With so many choices, how do kids and families sort them all out? Everyone has their own criteria and methods. But once the short (hopefully, short) list is arrived at, the campus visits become all important and from each school’s perspective, a minefield. At one top name school, the campus tour guide was completely drowned out by the sounds of construction jackhammers a short distance away. At another, much time was spent (unsuccessfully) silencing the alarm on the front door of a student dorm we were touring. At yet another, prospective students were asked to share something about themselves with others in the room; the problem was that the room was an auditorium full of people, most of whom were pressed for time and were there specifically to learn about that college, not about other prospective freshmen.
The effectiveness of presentations is paramount when you get hundreds of guests into an auditorium. Many that we attended were rambling snooze-fests. Some were technology challenged. And a few were very, very compelling. A really well-done video can compensate for too many speeches from too many campus representatives. Even the Q and A should be carefully prepared for, not with pat answers but thoughtful ones that represent the consistent voice of the institution.
There aren’t any easy answers to college branding and marketing. The processes and messages in place at most schools are well thought out, but often derivative of competing institutions. Really hammering home what is unique about your campus and its offerings is critical. When you throw in the challenges of ever-rising tuition and room and board costs, an especially tight global economy, and competition from more and more online education options, something has to give (and I don’t mean the alumni).

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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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