If A Consumer Asked You, "Why Is Tracking Good?", What Would You Say?

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Why Is Tracking GoodWith consumer privacy concerns around online behavioral advertising continuing to percolate both inside and outside the industry, AdExchanger.com asked a selection of ad technology executives their thoughts on how to articulate the opportunity unlocked by the use of tracking the consumer online for advertising purposes.

Simply, the question is...

"If a consumer asked you "Why is tracking good?", what would you say?"

Click below or scroll down for more:

Aaron Bell, CEO, and Adam Berke, President, AdRoll

Dear Internet User,

The Internet is great because it allows ideas and content to flow freely. You can hop from your custom Pandora radio station, to your bottomless Gmail account, to the Twitter feed of an historical liberation movement, to a casual game of “Words With Friends.” We’ve come to rely on these services and expect to access them for free, without paywalls or contracts.

Advertising makes this possible. Advertising is the lubricant of the Internet.

Unfortunately, much of the advertising you’ve seen sucks. That’s because the first phase of online advertising was dominated by direct response marketing. Without robust targeting capabilities, advertisers developed an overreliance on obnoxious practices such as dancing aliens and obtrusive popups.

But ads can be much better. New technologies are enabling ads that are relevant, interesting and provide you value. These technologies can lead us into a new phase of online advertising, where marketing is effective because it’s personalized, not because it’s intrusive. However, the key to this new phase is that you, the user, must be in control.

To illustrate: remember how everyone used to hate email marketing? That’s changed. Now people liberally share their email addresses to access daily deals, sales, and last minute concert announcements. When they don’t want to receive email anymore, they unsubscribe. The rules are clear, abuses are more easily identified and addressed, and the system works well for both marketers and users.

The same systems can work in display advertising. You choose which brands you’re interested in and when to unsubscribe. Advertisers won’t know who you are personally, but they can be confident you are a person receptive to their message. With this confidence, advertisers help your favorite sites flourish by paying them more.

And you will be in the driver seat, with an inside track to products, services and specials that you want. This partnership between users and advertisers will ensure that information and content remain free, as they’re meant to be.

- AdRoll

Chad Little, CEO, Fetchback (Ebay)

To track or not to track….that really seems to be looming questions in the online ad space lately.   From a consumer perspective, why is tracking good?

Assuming that we are talking about non-PII tracking, the #1 area of focus is market effectiveness.  Today’s consumers have unlimited product options available to them.  Some are purely based on marketing, where the actual cost of the good is pennies and marketing behind the brand is tens if not hundreds.  The more effective a company is at marketing their product, the lower their costs. The lower their costs the more savings they can pass on to the consumer.

Straight forward and simple.

The more data a marketer can access, the more effective they can be.

The #2 focus is marketing effectiveness…take two. The more effective the ads are, the more revenue publishers and the online ecosystem will produce.  The more revenue the publisher produces, the more free content they can provide.  This has always been the key mantra. I am not sure how much it would change the current environment, which is why I think the first point is more important to the consumer.

As a designer by training, the less I have to see poorly crafted ads that are not targeted and are purely generated to grab attention with freaky dancing jpgs or creepy facial expressions, the better off I am.  Speaking of ‘creep factor’, by removing tracking, the online world will revert to one big nasty infomercial.  So, selfishly speaking as a consumers, tracking equals relevancy and, typically (not always), relevancy equals better ads.

Lastly, why not? Consumers need to understand that it is the voice of a few that make the negative perception of behavioral tracking a much bigger issue than it really is.

Behavioral tracking shouldn’t be feared, but instead, embraced.  Tracking can simplify and improve a consumer’s online experience.  By utilizing gathered behavioral data in a strategic manner, online retailers can put the power of the online tracking to work for their consumers and eliminate the fear factor and providing peace of mind.

Bill Todd, President, ValueClick Media

There has been a lot of debate in Washington amongst policymakers and regulators with regard to online tracking. The debate has called into question whether a subset of online tracking, a practice called behavioral advertising, should be regulated or legislated in order to protect consumer privacy.

Online behavioral advertising (sometimes also called “interest based advertising” or “relevant advertising”) is the use of information collected across multiple websites in order to predict user preferences and show advertising that is more likely to be of interest to the user. Such practice by companies offers some real benefits to consumers and therefore should not be regulated or legislated out of existence.

One of the clearest benefits to consumers is that advertising, especially relevant advertising, helps keep a myriad of content and services on the internet free. Ad targeting commands higher prices, which in turn helps content providers provide new or better content to consumers for free and provides content owners with more sustainable business models. Some examples of content providers that have been able to successfully provide wonderful and innovative content and services for free based on advertising, including behavioral advertising, are Facebook, LinkedIn, Pandora, and mobile games like Angry Birds. Consumers would not be able to consume content online for free without the financial support of online advertising.

Another benefit of interest-based advertising is that consumers value online ads that are more personalized. Most consumers do not like advertising that is not relevant to them. Instead of a consumer seeing another irrelevant teeth whitening ad, he or she likely would rather see an advertisement for a sale on flights to a hometown or a set of outdoor furniture he or she has been searching for.

The key to maintaining the benefits of online behavioral advertising to consumers is for the online industry to adequately balance consumer privacy with the advantages that data collection and use provides. The industry has worked hard to achieve such balance by committing significant resources to provide more transparency and choice to consumers regarding the collection and use of their data for online behavioral advertising. Through company participation and compliance of self-regulatory programs through entities like the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the industry has come up with innovative and easy ways for consumers to get a better understanding of and greater control over interest based advertising. Such robust and credible programs help ensure that consumers can retain their confidence in the online medium and continue to enjoy the benefits of online behavioral advertising without sacrificing privacy. ”

David Nelson, Operations & IT Director, Unanimis.co.uk

Behavioural targeting is not only good for consumers it’s a rare win for everyone.

The experience online is driven by content. Its content which makes us all use the internet. If there were no cool, interesting, funny, educational content on the web there would be no web. Behavioural targeting online simply ensures that ad placements display content that you might be interested in rather than ads that are irrelevant and uninteresting. I am a consumer and I think that’s a win for me!

Of course there are other winners. Advertisers hope to find consumers who are interested in their product more often than by placing random adverts. They achieve higher brand awareness and a greater chance of selling the product. Publishers also win as being able to offer Behavioural Targeting increases the value of the ad placements and therefore their revenues.

Why should you be concerned about Advertisers and Publishers? Well it all comes back to content. Increased advertiser spends lead to increased publisher revenue which will be re invested in better consumer content. That means a better experience online for you, a wider variety of content and an ever evolving virtual world which is free at the point of delivery. That is most definitely a win for consumers.

Eric Bosco, COO, ChoiceStream

At our company, we think privacy is a good thing. We respect the consumer’s choice to keep all of his information, including web activity, private. We also respect the privacy of consumers who choose to share their information as a means to better customer service.

How does behavioral targeting lead to better customer service? Think of the Internet as a modern-day Mayberry from the Andy Griffiths Show. No, seriously. In Mayberry, the local shopkeeper made a point of knowing each of his customers. He knew their names, the products they liked, and when they were most likely to stop into his general store. As a result, the shopkeeper could greet each customer by name, make sure the products he or she purchases are always in stock when he or she drops by, and recommend other products he or she might like. Because the local shopkeeper built his business on getting to know his customers and building relationships, the residents of Mayberry enjoyed a fulfilling customer experience every time they dropped by the general store.

While this degree of customer experience has all but disappeared from Main Street USA along with small business, it’s actually thriving in e-commerce. Online customers who share their information enjoy highly personalized product recommendations, faster checkouts, and robust membership reward programs. You don’t have to watch TV Land to remember what real personalized customer service was like. It’s alive and well for consumers who choose to allow online merchants to get to know them better via behavioral targeting.

Marla R. Schimke, Vice President of Marketing, AudienceScience

So, what’s so great about targeted advertising?

Since we began executing audience targeted advertising campaigns eight years ago, it’s always been about two key consumer benefits – keeping the Internet free and delivering advertisements that cross the line from clutter to content, adding extra value to consumers’ online experiences. It is these fundamental beliefs that have been attracting consumers to targeted content relevant to their needs and wants. Based on the projected influx of budget dollars, brand-safe audience targeting is a critical function in driving holiday revenue.

Now, with the media driving paranoia and anxiety around buzz words like “tracking” and “cookies” due to a few bad apples, even the beloved Cookie Monster has taken on a new meaning for some. Studies dating back to 2004 indicate that consumers would rather have a more relevant online experience than pay or adopt subscription models. Or worse, be inundated with the noise and clutter we remember from the pre-tracking era. Audience-based marketing makes everyone’s online experience more relevant and enables marketers to deliver content to the most laser-focused audience available, helping them ring in the season walking in a winter profit-land.

By John Ebbert

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3 Responses to “If A Consumer Asked You, "Why Is Tracking Good?", What Would You Say?”


  1. Tracking isn't good.

    The word "tracking" is pretty creepy to any consumer, and I can't see that changing too fast. And it completely misses the benefit.

    The reason all our companies are tracking the consumer, of course, is to get the advertisers more return on their money spent. Now, aside from cowboys (there will always be cowboys), the consumer is generally spending more money because they want to.

    So by making the consumer's task easier, quicker, cheaper - we will make advertisers more money. Interests are aligned.

    So my answer would be: We are tracking you because that's the only way we have to work out what you want, without asking you in person. We aren't actually interested in your individual differences - it's your similarities to other people that allow us to learn about you. And once we have an idea what you want, we should be able to make your life easier, quicker and cheaper.

    Alex Kelleher, CEO, Cognitive Match

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