BrainTrust Query: I’m Being Followed Online. Is That A Good Thing?

Discussion
Feb 14, 2013

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Hanifin Loyalty blog.

I’m being followed. I don’t see them all the time, but I know they’re out there. Sometimes I catch them out of the corner of my eye and try not to look their way. Other times they just blatantly jump out in front of me.

I’m talking about banner ads. Because lately I can’t help but notice that some of the things I search for or look at on the web are obviously noticing me — and then following me to the other sites I visit.

I had banner ads for the movie Les Miserables following me around the web for about two weeks. A site called Christian Singles was on my tail for a month with ads popping up every time I went to The New York Times website. And lately, ads for the Fairmont hotel chain seem to be on every web page I visit.

Sometimes my connection to the banners is obvious. I did recently look up some rates on the Fairmont hotel site. And I had checked out the reviews at the Le Miz movie site. But Christian Singles? I’m happily married and have never identified myself as Christian, but figure this may be due to a spirituality blog site I visit now and then.

Are they following you too? Then you probably noticed that at least some of these banner ads have a small icon titled "Ad Choices" in the lower right hand corner. When you click on this icon, you’re brought to a Google page with the following message:

"The AdChoices symbol appears on web pages and ads to let you know when information about your interests or demographics may have been collected or used to show you ads – what’s known as interest-based advertising."

In other words, I’m being "cookied" and followed. And while I’m not totally against this attempt to put "interest-based" ads in front of me, it does have the feeling of a car salesman following me off the lot after I’ve taken a peek at the new models. Enough already, if I’m really interested I’ll come back.

It has also struck me that the technology is pretty dumb. Already a Verizon FiOS customer, I visited their website to find out how to connect my DVD player to my TV set top box and then had banner ads for the FiOS Triple Play, at a super low price, following me around for weeks.

But, like it or not, I supposed this new technology is here to stay. At least until Google figures out a way to read my e-mails and offer up advertising related to the content of my personal messages. Oh wait a second, they already do that.

What value does banner ad tracking offer marketers? Where do you see the technology going over the next five years?

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16 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: I’m Being Followed Online. Is That A Good Thing?"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

Tracking offers marketers an opportunity to target consumers who may be in the market for specific products and services. As the article points out, not all tracking ads are on target. I look for this technology to be refined and the ads to become more accurate over the next five years. Targeted advertising is the price of access to so many free internet services and websites.

David Dorf
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

Since there are always going to be ads on sites, I suppose I’d rather have those ads be relevant to me. We just need the re-targeting apps to be a little smarter, and the best way for that to happen is to let me divulge my interests instead of letting Google make assumptions.

Of course the cookie concept can be extended into the physical world using the uniqueness of mobile phones. From an advertising perspective, those channels are still separate, but they will be merged in the future so the ads you see online may be a result of the places you visited offline and vice-versa.

As a society, we need to determine the line between re-targeting and stalking.

Mark Price
Guest
Mark Price
9 years 3 months ago

Banner ad tracking permits marketers to place personalized ads in places where customers can find them. The benefit of these ads to marketers is that they present a consistent reminder to targeted customers about things they are interested in. The benefit to consumers is that the ads that they see on the sites they visit reflect their behavior pattern, and not a generic “one-size-fits-all” communications and offer plan.

Since I love tennis and skiing, I would prefer to see ads about tennis and skiing rather than ads about diapers or Christian singles, since I have no children, am Jewish and married.

Over the next five years, we will see these ads become more accurate and more personalized, reflecting consumer behavior on the web and also leveraging GPS location data on where we travel and where we shop.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
9 years 3 months ago

These ads follow me, too, Bill. And, I also avert my eyes. I think what we are seeing is that these personalized ads just aren’t ready for prime time yet. Presumably they return some sort of ROI, as 0.0001% of readers presumably click on them and another fraction of that actually buys something. I’m sure the technology will get smarter and smarter and then consumers will start clicking more and/or be REALLY creeped out.

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

This technology falls into the category of ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’. It’s creepy and annoying. If they become particularly annoying, I take note of who these advertisers are and put them into my ‘don’t buy from these people’ file.

Marketers need to be far more creative and motivated by these practices. Technologies are now trying to get a handle of the ‘physical cookie’ through ‘sniffing’ for my mobile device or through video facial recognition. Where does it end?

Let the shopper and your customer be pleasantly surprised and delighted by your products and/or service! Brand marketers are relying on technology far too much to flog their wares on us. It cheapens the brand. If you’re going to chase me, at least give me a reason to stop running to avoid you. If brands don’t police themselves, the practice will backfire and privacy legislation will dictate the technologies use.

Kurt Seemar
Guest
Kurt Seemar
9 years 3 months ago

Where banner ad technology will go over the next five years is closely tied to where we as consumers drive online privacy. The more information we allow marketers and advertisers to use to target us, the more relevant the ad. Advertisers no more want to spend money advertising to an uninterested consumer than the consumer wants to be exposed to unwanted advertising. Assuming privacy laws and practices stay the same or loosen up we can expect banner ads to become a lot more targeted.

However, this does not mean that some advertisers will not make the effort to target their ads and will continue to spray and pray. Decades after the technology was invented, science and marketing know how exists to target direct mail and greatly increase ROI, yet there are still brands that are doing saturation mailing. As a consumer, just as we still receive junk mail in the mail box (and in-box) we should expect to get served unwanted banner ads. As marketers we should strive to do better.

Brian Numainville
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

There must be value to marketers, but at the same time banner ad tracking is still not a mature tool. At this point, it is very overt and obvious, and frankly many times inaccurate. As time goes on and this matures, I expect banner ads to blend in to become more subtle and also be much more accurate in their targeting.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
9 years 3 months ago
There is no challenge for a modern Information Technology (IT) business enterprise system with capable staff to identify trends and interests on a user basis. To date the challenge is to evolve from annoyance to acceptance in the minds of the two legged lab mice being experimented on within the confines of these new and wonderful IT gadgets. Market indicators, editorial script and the squawk on the street all point to growing dissatisfaction with advertisements that are subjectively labeled as an invasion of privacy by the consumer. The opportunity to create and continue interest in a company and its message should instead start with hospitality and end with privacy. Ease of use, full pricing disclosure and quick check out with immediate online assistance will bring them back and stimulate referrals. In my daily contact with consumers, both corporate and individual, these wants and wishes are constantly brought to my attention. These market responses are overdue for reaction from retail executives wishing to get an edge or turn their companies around. Retail companies using the practices… Read more »
Zel Bianco
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

Banner tracking is creepy. There, I said it. But marketers need metrics to advertise against, so it’s the price we pay for the internet. It will only grow as algorithms get better, faster, and smarter. I think it’s great to have targeted messages that I actually might pay attention to. In future years, fast food drive-thrus will scan your license plate to recall your previous order. Isn’t technology fun?

Shep Hyken
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

Customers have been scared of being tracked (or is it stalked) with the tracking tools available. I believe this will be changing. While there will be many consumers who do not want to be tracked, and they will have the option to opt out of a system that does so, there are other consumers who will gladly share information with the companies and industries they love. Through consent, the retailer will be able to send very targeted advertising, which includes banner ads as well as other media channels.

Ronald Stack
Guest
Ronald Stack
9 years 3 months ago

Finding the balance between useful and creepy isn’t easy. I recently did some shopping for lighting fixtures at a site that had a cookie for every SKU. Reminding me what I had looked at continually over 60 days got pretty annoying. But what’s worse is being followed even after the sale, like with you and FIOS. In my case, I’m still seeing ads for a hotel I’ve already booked. That really should stop.

Alexander Rink
Guest
9 years 3 months ago
Although many people certainly have concerns about the privacy of their information, I believe that banner ad tracking will offer consumers a better experience overall, as they will see ads that are targeted and relevant to them. For marketers, it allows them to narrow in and focus on the consumers that have shown interest in them, and consequently their messaging can be much more targeted than a blanket, catch-all campaign. I think the technology will only get more precise and find better, more accurate ways to measure consumers’ interests and preferences. On a personal level, I much prefer to see re-targeted banner ads from sites I have visited, than the somewhat more random ads I was accustomed to seeing in the past. For example, I was looking for some athletic apparel at a few stores, and now regularly see ads for athletic apparel—which is clearly of interest to me, since I was looking for some in the first place. That said, it will be useful to have consumer tools to enable us to turn off… Read more »
Vahe Katros
Guest
Vahe Katros
9 years 3 months ago

Shaving brushes
You’ll soon see ’em
On a shelf
In some museum

And just like those signs
On the side of the highway
Lousy Ad Sense targeting
Will soon go bye bye

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
9 years 3 months ago

There is a cost to a mostly free internet, and this is it. Just as there will always be billboards on the highways and buildings in downtowns, there will always be banner ads on the internet. It is far better to have ‘smart’ ads than random ones for both the consumer and for the advertiser. The intelligence behind the algorithms will continue to strengthen making the ads ever more relevant.

Shilpa Rao
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

Personalization has a nice-to-creepy scale. If the retailer knows I’m pregnant even before I know it, it’s definitely creepy. But offering deals on hotels that I had been searching for is nice. Retailers’ online strategies should be to personalize, but understanding where it is on the nice-to-creepy scale is essential. Such following might leave customers irritated and often suspicious about the site.

Over next five years, I see technology getting more predictive and adopting self learning algorithms. If the customer doesn’t value the ad content, it learns the customer behaviour and experiments with it in newer ways presenting exciting, new and still relevant content for the customer.

Jason Goldberg
Guest
9 years 3 months ago
Re-Targeting certainly has its place, and well executed behavior or contextual re-targeting campaigns can have a much higher click through and better conversion than traditional display ads, which proves their relevance to the target market. What I HATE about re-targeting is that it’s almost always focused on a single channel. So when I use BestBuy.com to pre-shop before visiting the store, then drive to the store and buy the item (which is probably the most common shopping behavior on BestBuy.com), I don’t want to get home from the store, only to see BestBuy re-targeting ads stalking me across the internet. Even worse, those ads had better not be offering me a better a deal! We’re seeing more and more retailers tie online and offline shopping behaviors. Staples, Home Depot, and Apple are all good examples of retailers who can see online to in-store purchases, and exclude those omni-channel shoppers from retargeting campaigns. The other important consideration when using retargeting is to make sure you have implemented a multi-touch attribution model for your marketing efforts. If… Read more »
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