Surviving Online Marketing Innovation

Josh GordonSurvival of the fittest. Ever since Darwin hopped on an exploratory cruise and developed his ideology in the mid-19th Century, economists and scientists alike have been applying it to just about anything that moves…including the increasingly elusive movements of the “invisible hand.” In the online space, its best application is to the behavioral targeting (BT) industry. We’ve defined the types of behavioral targeting in the past here on the Lunch Pail. From the looks of it, onsite targeting, as opposed to network targeting, appears to be the fittest.

After now infamous network behavioral targeting company NebuAd collapsed in September of this year, another network BTer has joined them this October. Adzilla has liquidated after their CEO Toby Gabriner departed. It’s interesting to note that Adzilla claimed an “opt-out” model for their version of network targeting.

While the companies with targeting technology begin to thin out and define themselves differently, I think it’s also important for the industry media to avoid sounding alarm bells. For example, this isn’t a “BT crash” as some have called it. It’s more like a “BT fender bender.” A couple of specialist companies, or companies with specialties (if we’re parsing language), have been unable to overcome the uncertainty surrounding data and privacy at the network/affiliate level. All we’ve discovered is that once a network targeting company trips, it’s hard to get back up.

As companies continue to jockey for market share within this niche, it’s important to keep the consumer in mind. A very simple way to avoid the potential pitfalls of being labeled as a “behavioral targeter” is sharing. I know…it’s old fashioned. But the willingness to disclose information to the consumer about how technology works allows them to be involved in the process, rather than “targeted.” For companies that do behavioral targeting, they need to take the time to explain, in laymen’s terms, how their technology works, and why it’s a good thing for a shopper. This information shouldn’t be controlled or taboo.

There are currently some attempts to streamline the definition of behavioral targeting and develop a vision of what BT can and should be. I welcome these efforts. For better or worse, the market has a way of working things out. I think in this case, the more information, the better.

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