No One Wants To Be Targeted But…

Yesterday I came across an article on eMarketer that showed that Behavioral Targeting brings clear benefits to publishers.

However when consumers are asked about Behavioral Targeting or data collections by websites they seem to dislike it.

It is clear from the first chart that behavioral targeting is working for everybody i.e. publishers, advertisers and consumers. If it were not working for consumers then publishers would not charge premium for it and advertisers would not pay premium for it.

So why are consumers so concerned? 

As I have stated before the biggest issue seems to the lack of consumer education and the perception of behavioral targeting.

Anybody will get concerned if you tell them that the websites are collecting too much personal information about them. The issue here is how the question is framed and the context it is posed in. If asked in a different way the responses would be different than shown in the chart above.

Let’s see how the answer will differ based on the questions asked. What do you think the answer will be to the following questions?

  1. Do you like to be targeted?
  2. Do you like that the websites collect a lot of personal data about you?

I think it will be something like “Hell No, I don’t like it”
Now, let’s frame the questions in another way:

  1. Do you like to save you money on things you buy online? I am sure the answer will change from Hell No, to Yes.
  2. Will it be ok if we understand your online behavior so that we provide you better offers?…. Sure
  3. Understanding your behavior will require us to keep track of stuff you are buying and browsing. Are you ok with that?…. Sure or Maybe
  4. We might also use your gender, age range etc. also to make sure you receive the right offers and message. You already have provided this to us and there is no need for any further action from you. Will that be ok? …Sure go ahead or maybe will be the answer.

Net results “No one wants to be targeted but they want the benefits” and seems like that value proposition is not clear to the consumers, the word “Targeting” gets them very concerned.


In addition to my “5 Steps to Successful Behavioral Targeting“, here is what I think should happen

  1. Behavioral Targeting should be renamed with a more consumer focused name. Marketers understand “Behavioral Targeting” but this name sounds too negative for consumers.
  2. Educate consumers about online advertising and how using behavioral attributes helps consumers.

What do you think?

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7 Replies to “No One Wants To Be Targeted But…”

  1. Good post Anil – and it's amazing how eMarketer could ask such leader bias questions! Ask anyone if they want ads on the sites they visit and the answer is no… ask them if they are willing to pay to get access to the content and the answer is no… I'm sure you would ask them "what's the alternative?" and most of them would say "ok… leave the ads there!" 🙂

  2. Nice post, I agree. Everybody has advantages of this method, whatever it is called. But how can you rename a buzz word, especially when it is already so long in place.

    For my understanding it is also not Web 2.0. It is "Web Advanced" since Web 1.0 is still in place and can make sense for some companies. So it is an improvement, not a new version.


    Web Analytics Europa Blog

  3. You know, you hit the nail on the head. The term "behavioral targeting" just sounds scary — even though it's personalized the web (and the offline world) in so many important ways. The word needs to change — and though "neuro-behavioral-targeting" would be a big step in the right direction for the actual field — the consumer adopted name shouldn't include "neuro" "behavior" or "targeting". Each of those words has too many other connotations for adoption… I'd recommend an alternate term like "Personalization"

    "Is it okay if we personalize your experience based on your expressed preferences?" sounds like a good question.

  4. Perhaps I am fully strange- or maybe I do just understand it better, but i don't mind being targeted at all. I don't like being spammed, but I have a much higher tolerance for uninvited messages when they are relevant to my life. I don't mind when websites collect data on me either because I know that is how more relevant messages get delivered to me. Remember that TV ads are spam…it's just that most people don't think about it that way because they got used to it in exchange for the delivery of good content…Oh but wait! Now I have a dvr. Technology helps us ignor the irrelevant.

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