Targeted Ads vs. Big Brother

This post is for Claire, because she was too tired to keep arguing discussing this with me last night.  I started out by describing how wonderful the latest targeting improvements on Facebook ads are, and how they're going to make marketers even smarter, and save lots of money from wasted mass-ad spends for multiple stakeholders.

Well that did it! How could I think this was good?  "People have no idea how much information Facebook has on us" she said.  Well-- you're the ones who put it on their website. Granted, but let's look at it from a utopian marketing world.  Imagine if every ad you ever saw was perfect. Perfect. It was from a company that you recognized, for a product you wanted, at a time when you were thinking about a purchase, with an offer that was just enough to make you convert.  That would be amazing.  But marketers are not there yet. 

I actually had to trash my industry to make my point, but most marketing is just not there-- and thus people don't like it when they see it, and so the vicious cycle of distrust of advertisers continues.

What I was pointing out during my discussion with Claire was that Facebook, for all its stupid farming games and poking, has created a system where they can more expertly target you.  Not perfect yet, but pretty good.  Rather than showing you (her) an ad for mail-order University (she's highly educated), or sexy singles in her area (she's happily married) the ads would become more and more relevant, and would eventually get us to Minority Report style personal targeting, with relevant offers.

When I asked her if she were to see an ad on TV that spoke to her by name, presented an offer about craft room supplies (which is a hot topic for her right now) with a value proposition that would actually make her purchase--- she conceded that she would actually want to see it.  Bam!  Marketing that works.

We forget sometimes that targeting, with the right demographic, geographic, and psychographic information with a frequency that doesn't annoy (spam) with an offer that makes sense (spam) will actually convert.  Why do people still spend money on mass?  Radio spots, billboards, etc?  Awareness.  You get hit with so many messages and terrible UNtargeted offers every day that for each of our smart marketing initiatives, we need to support and spread them with awareness generating spots.  (Which I actually think is a total waste).

Why don't marketers just focus on conversion tactics?  If I'm presented with a compelling offer at the right time enough I will have the awareness necessary to make a buying decision. Anyway, back to Facebook...

So I explained that Facebook launched 'Ads to Friends of Connections' yesterday, and was met with even more backlash.  "Why, just because a friend is a fan of something, do they think I'll be a Fan of something?!" Uhhh, you just answered your own question.  You are not friends with people who ride snowmobiles and fix their own cars---- thus those brands shouldn't market to you.  However, your friends are educated, nerdy, with good jobs, thinking about or already started families, etc...   You may be interested in what they're a fan of.  May.

...And here's how I explained it.  It's not about you (her), it's about the total budget the marketer has to spend.  If they can take their whole budget, and make the targeting really, really good-- they can give a better offer to the right people, make more money, and avoid spamming people who aren't interested.  Everybody wins.  Targeting saves money, and saves tired eyeballs. Yay! Targeting.

So, in summary, is Facebook big brother for collecting all this information about you, or are they actually helping you, by making it better for advertisers to not bug you with the wrong offer at the wrong time of your life?  And, as Claire points out, we both use AdBlockPlus for Firefox, and don't see most online advertising anyway.

Comment with your thoughts on Ad Targeting vs. Big Brother Tactics