New advertising models: Target them or let them find you?

Just like everyone else, advertisers are trying to figure out how to take advantage of the opportunities offered by new technologies. Two divergent streams of thought seem to be emerging: making ads more personalized vs. trying to encourage audiences to select into seeing ads. The boundaries are not clear-cut – there are plenty of ads that merge these two approaches – but I expect that the latter course will prove more beneficial for consumers and producers.

To exemplify the first, The New York Times reported that ads are now better able to track you to other sites. As soon as you click on a product, that product will pop up everywhere – even after you leave the site. While this idea of micro-targeting isn’t new – I remember that as soon as I changed my Facebook status to “engaged,” my ads instantly centered on wedding services and weight loss – the insistent nature of the ads seems to be growing. While some may argue that these targeted ads are better for consumers, increasing the likelihood that we are interested in the products they are trying to market to us, they also raise the potential of seeming to invasive, too targeted.

Meanwhile, services like Shopkick have the right idea. Although it is reported about in this Times article as a method to get people to use location-based services on smart phones, I think it has even greater potential. By using the program, people can find advertisements and coupons directly related to the services they are using at the time. If you’re headed to Walmart, check into the application and look for any coupons provided. These ads are even more personalized in a sense – you are giving them your location – they are also ads that you are choosing to view. And this should leave people feeling slightly grateful to the service, rather than skeptical and frustrated.

While the nature of advertising has to change, companies should think carefully about how audiences interact with their ads. While targeting might seem like an obvious answer, there are many ways to target. Giving audiences the feeling that they are choosing your application might be the most effective solution, for audiences and marketers alike.

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