Targeted Marketing: The Balance Between Privacy and Relevancy

Written by on Tuesday, April 07, 2015

We all know the feeling. You reach a crucial, climactic scene in your favorite television show like The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, when suddenly you’re thrust back into reality and a two-minute commercial break. Oftentimes, the products in these commercials are completely irrelevant to your life. Restless leg syndrome? Sorry, but my legs are fine, and I’ve just lost 30 seconds of my life. Activia? I think I’ll pass, I prefer Ben & Jerry’s.

What if there were a better way? 

Thankfully, there is. It’s called targeted marketing. Obviously traditional television or radio campaign has a time and place. However, with today’s data-driven targeting capabilities, small and large businesses are learning that a properly-managed and tracked digital campaign can lead to a much lower cost per lead and improve overall ROI.

Targeted marketing works by harnessing the power of big data. Companies such as Facebook, Google, Acxiom, Polk, Experian and Centro have giant data warehouses full of information about you – where you shop, what you’ve bought, what you’re thinking about buying, what webpages you’ve browsed, what brands you’ve “liked” on Facebook and what keyword phrases you’ve searched for on Google.

Privacy crusaders have good reason to be concerned about the use of this data – especially considering the revelations about the NSA’s intricate and intrusive spying uncovered by Edward Snowden. But at the end of the day, all the data these companies have is anonymous to the advertiser. As an advertiser, I may know that there are 7,000 people interested in Joe’s Pizza Palace on Facebook, but I have no idea who any of those people are specifically.

Look at it this way.

Content creators must make money somehow. While there are a variety of ways to monetize content on the web – micropayments or paywalls, for example – these monetization strategies have largely failed to work. For better or worse, consumers expect content on the web to be free. But just as AMC has to make money by running Activia ads in the middle of your Breaking Bad marathon, the Huffington Post, Facebook and Google must make money with their own ads.  

If the ads are a necessity, then why not make them relevant? 

If you’re a 25-year-old male interested in health and fitness, wouldn’t you rather see a display ad for some new Adidas running shoes or for your local gym more than another RLS ad?

If you’re a 34-year-old mother of three hungry growing boys, wouldn’t you rather see a Facebook ad for grocery deals at the local supermarket than an ad for The Fast and the Furious 7?

What does this mean for your business?

It means that you avoid wasting impressions and clicks (and marketing dollars) on consumers who aren’t interested in your product or service. It means you can do more with less. It means you reach your target audience with laser precision and improve ROI dramatically. 

Targeted marketing and the use of targeting data is a net win for marketers and consumers alike. However, marketing professionals must strive to maintain the crucial balance between privacy and relevancy.

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