Personalised advertising is good for users

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Personalised advertising is getting a bit of a bashing in the news recently. The whole question over privacy is being questioned; that it’s an advantage purely for advertisers and no one else.

The critics have got it all wrong. It’s the public, whether they are a mobile, web or TV viewers, are the real beneficiaries.

Firstly, let’s take a look at what personalised advertising really means. When a person buys a car magazine, do they want to see adverts inside of:

  1. Nappies
  2. Washing powder
  3. Cars

That’s an example of personalisation based on personas, or group of people. No one, that I’m aware of, would argue that nappy or washing powder manufacturers would want to advertise in a car magazine. I don’t understand why it’s any different on a website.

Now let’s move forward to personalised network advertising. This technology is based on how users move around a number of websites, who all use the same servers for their large adverts. Say a user visits a football club website regularly, and then they go to another website such as a news portal. They then see some adverts for their favourite team’s new home kit. 

This is still based on personas because it assumes some trends indicate certain behaviour (in this example, a user visits a football club website regularly so they probably support that team). This is an advantage for both the advertiser (no point spending marketing money on loads of advertising banners aimed at everybody and anybody) and also the consumer – they see relevant ads.

The next step is individually targeted, truly personalised content. It’s what many supermarkets do, based on your commonly purchased items. It’s takes into account some trends, but mainly the specific individual. 

Take the car example above. A user sees an advert on a website for a car. They end up buying the car (probably not based purely on the advert!) Personalisation will then stop the user from seeing worthless, same ads for the car and may replace them with insurance companies that specialise in that car market, and maybe even the demographics of the user.

This is an advantage of personalised advertising. It’s what shop keepers have been doing for centuries – understanding customers who walk into the shop (browse their website) and make targeted recommendations.

Car ad courtesy of Georg Schwalbach (GS1311) on Flickr

2 thoughts on “Personalised advertising is good for users

  1. Isn’t the issue though that the control about what they see is not in the hands of the consumer? The ‘filter’ is being set for them not just without their control but often without their knowledge. Far better surely to maybe have a default filter but to allow the consumer to tune what they see if they wish, that would answer some of the privacy questions, it’s about transparency and control.

  2. How would a retailer or brand enable consumers to filter their data? Perhaps there should be a big red button on websites that allow consumers to see a non-personalised view?

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