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Targeted advertising, really?

Last year, a kid in the US fell sick after consuming a beef burger from a fast food joint.

Being an advocate of healthy eating, his mum started searching for remedies online, and posting on social media.

Completely unaware of her situation, this fast food brand continued to “spam” her inbox and search pages with ads when all she did was to search for a cure for her son who was sick.

Of course, the key words typed were burger, beef, fast-food and so on. Totally appalled by the ads, this lady sued the company and ultimately, the brand had to pull those ads down and rework its targeting mechanism.

This is not something new. Often we see online ads wrongly placed which leads me to wonder, is targeting really taking into account the context, as it claims to?

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Do you really want your ad placed here?

Do you really know your customers?

Are marketers are relying too much on the mechanics, completely forgetting the human aspect of marketing?

I was once interviewing a senior marketer from a hospitality brand, who said while digital has opened up a world of possibilities for us, it has also made it very easy for brands to get lost in numbers forgetting about the context and the “art” of marketing.

I sat down with Axel Steinman (pictured), vice president for emerging markets, Microsoft Advertising to talk on this topic. He agrees saying, ads have been intrusive, boring and targeting capabilities are so weak and poor that performance rates are not improving.

“There is a lot of growth potential for advertising but many a times this is lost. Today there are plenty of gaps in advertising,” Steinman said.

The ad world has yet to learn contextualised advertising in true sense.

Steinman gives five tips to advertisers and agencies alike:

  • The privacy of people needs to be respected. When consumers find their privacy compromised, the trust in brands is shaken.
  • Advertising cannot be intrusive or invasive, which it currently is. It has to respect the consumer and be part of their experience.
  • Advertising needs to be in the context of what the consumer trying to accomplish rather than an obstacle in his way of task accomplishment.
  • Advertising still has to be an art which draws in appreciation for its beauty and visually attractive nature – there’s no point in just transferring an ad from TV to print to online.
  • The medium has to be right – this includes sensory aspects. If a consumer is in a touch or swipe screen medium, the ad has to be touch or swipe motioned. If it’s on a keyboard, the ad needs to follow.

“Consumers don’t like advertising. You need to do something that makes them like it and is of value to them. They are not going to love advertising but if you succeed they might just like it,” Steinman added.

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