Respecting the Consumer in Personalized Online Advertising

What’s good for the consumer is good for the advertiser, right?

Though it’s true, it doesn’t always lead industry players to develop solutions with consumers’ best interests in mind.

Now more than ever, as ad blockers threaten the future of our industry, it’s critical for advertisers to demand solutions that protect their customer relationships, rather than leading to banner burnout, or worse — ad blockers.  To make the web a better place — a place where advertisers can delight customers while reaching them with relevant, interesting ads — marketers must demand solutions that respect the consumer.

Here are a few ideas to bring to the next meeting with your ad tech partner.

Frequency Capping

This is a big one. Frequency capping refers to the practice of limiting the number of times a user is shown a particular ad within a given time frame. It’s important because, although some repeated exposure is desirable to get someone’s attention, there comes a point when people becomes less likely to click on the ad simply because they have been overexposed to it.

In the industry this is known as “banner burnout” or “ad-blindness,” and advertisers should avoid it for two major reasons.

The first one should be obvious given the topic of this post: it’s disrespectful to the consumer. No one wants to see the same ad 15 times in three hours, no matter how inclined they may be to purchase the product. Second, it’s fiscally irresponsible: failure to frequency cap often leaves the advertiser burning money. Frequency capping allows the advertiser not only to stop short of spamming their users, but also increases the reach of their campaigns by putting the budget towards reaching more unique users, instead of showing the same ad repeatedly to a smaller number of users, or constantly chasing the last click.

Negative Retargeting

Negative retargeting is related to frequency capping, but slightly more finessed. Retargeting is known for its ability to drive conversion-prone traffic back to advertiser sites, but marketers should be wary of pestering people to purchase items they already purchased. (Duh?) Negative retargeting means excluding those products, but also changing the way you interact with customers after a purchase — and yes, for starters, that means now showing them products they have already bought.

That said, negative retargeting doesn’t meant that an advertiser has to stop engaging that “already-purchased” consumer altogether. One option is to switch from advertising the already-purchased item to showing complimentary products: the belt or purse to match the purchased shoes, the extra baggage or car rental for the purchased flight, the case or headphones to match the purchased laptop.

But be wary — when you work with numerous retargeting vendors at once, you often lose the ability to exclude from one vendor’s campaign a product or service that was purchase from the last-click of another. Exclusivity gives you the highest amount of control when it comes to respecting consumers.

Consumer Education

One of the biggest ways that advertisers can show respect for consumers is by educating them about how the ads they’re shown are delivered to them.

In our opinion, the most transparent way to do this is through a mechanism or link within the ad itself. That’s why Sociomantic includes a small triangular Ad Choice icon the corner of every ad we service. When clicked, the icon leads to a page on our website where you can read about how the targeting technology works, what information is collected, and how it is used to show more relevant ads across the web.

In addition to the in-ad info link, websites such as Your Online Choices go far to help explain the wider context of how the industry works and how consumers can exercise choice and control in our connected world.

Consumer Control

Similarly, the advertiser (via their demand-side platform or targeting partner) must offer people the control to opt out of targeting by ad technology, if they choose. In adhering to the self-regulatory Framework for Online Behavioural Advertising (PDF), our privacy policy offers users the option to easily opt out of personalized ads delivered for Sociomantic. We believe that it is in the best interest of the consumer, the advertiser, and the industry at large to let the consumer control what information is collected about them and used for online advertising.

By working with vendors who implement these four methodologies, advertisers can simultaneously show their respect for their audience, and drive their ROI through more efficient campaigning.  We are committed to helping advertisers do both through real-time bidding.