Behavioral Targeting was one of the big topics of conversation at the recent ANA Conference held in Phoenix. According to Stuart Elliot of the New York Times, those who attended “heard speaker after speaker address the growing popularity of what is known as behavioral targeting”.
The logic behind behavioral targeting, at least on the surface, is difficult to refute. By targeting messages based on user behavior, we will be able to place more relevant ads in front of more interested consumers.
Makes perfect sense. At least, in theory.
My problem with behavioral targeting is that it seems to sidestep one of the most important behaviors of viewers. To see if you agree or not, I’ll need you to answer a simple question.
When you skip commercials at home, are you actually skipping commercials, or, are you skipping the interruption to the program you are watching?
If you’re skipping commercials, it means that when confronted with a five-commercial pod, you wade through it commercial by commercial,
skipping those that aren’t relevant, and watching those that are.
Is this the way that you do it?
Or, do you put the pedal to the metal (actually, the thumb to the fast-forward button), speeding through all five commercials in around eight seconds, so that you can get back to the show that you were watching?
If this is the case, and the mother-in-law research I conducted seemed to indicate such, then isn’t this the behavior that we should be targeting?
In other words, before focusing all of our efforts on trying to get the right commercial in front of the right person at the right time, what if we put more effort towards finding ways to make it so that commercials don’t intrude?
It seems to me that this would only help to make relevancy even more, well, relevant.
Of course, it could be argued that we aren’t proceeding down this path due to our own past behavior that clearly indicates that we like to be paid based on impressions.
Impressions offer big numbers. And, in this business, we like big numbers. Even though we all know that the number of interested viewers, at any one time, for any particular product, is actually quite small. If we were paid based on just the number of those that were interested, well, that would change everything wouldn’t it?
Most noticeably, our Christmas bonuses.
So, instead of changing our behavior, we push a solution that is inadequate at best. Who knows, maybe no one will notice.
Which is pretty much the same argument used by those men who convince themselves that a comb-over makes them look irresistible.
Marketing, in the past, was all about creating control over the consumer. As control has shifted, so too, has the purpose of marketing. Today, marketing is about figuring out how best to concede control.
Continuing down the path of intrusive advertising is forcing yesterday’s idea of marketing into today’s digital marketplace.
An uncomfortable fit at best.
And why, perhaps, it’s our own behavior that we should be looking at, before we start targeting others.