Behavioural Targeting

I believe we have a lot of research to do to find the true value of inferring things from on-line behaviours. Inferences are either too simple or require a vast amount of data and analysis (which is expensive).

It’s Easter Monday (for my US friends, that’s a public holiday in here in the UK). What did you do this Easter?  I’ve been visiting family, and eating Easter eggs, in Shropshire and Wigan. I’ve been observing Roman ruins in Wroxeter (or ‘Viroconium’ as it was known when it was the fourth largest city in Roman Britain). I watched the film, Walk The Line, at Shrewsbury’s new(ish) Old Market Hall cinema. A lovely weekend.

So, if you were in the advertising business what adverts would you like to show to me now that I have shared this information with you? You know a little about my likes if not a lot about my dislikes.  Based on what I’ve just told you, would you promote a new film (Walk The Line was released in February so I am not sure it says I am big on new releases) or a new chocolate bar (I did extend my Cadbury’s love affair) or would you promote something historical? I am not sure there’s a movie based on Roman chocolatiers, but if there is then let me know!

Now, I know you’d actually profile me, determine that Walk The Line didn’t literally mean I loved country music but the fact that I bought Easter eggs and spent time with family firmly plants me into a demographic and the result of it all will be an ad for the new Volvo, or something similar. You get the idea. We can leap from A to C via M without much justification, can’t we?

This, however, is an issue I am struggling with at the moment at work. I know, I once promised not to write about work here but I’m not dwelling on specifics so go with me.

I’ve pretty much spent the last few weeks working with customers on how to implement behavioural targeting concepts for their web sites and if those concepts are right for their advertisers based on the customer’s behaviour patterns on the site.  Behavioural targeting isn’t actually as scary as I suspect some people think it is. It just suggests, anonymously, that if you have performed an on-line search looking for a new car then you might be looking for a new car. Now, if you do this on a car web site then it’s pretty much given you’re in the market. It’s not rocket science. Nobody knows who anybody is and I’m only working with technologies that do not share data between marketers. This way my behaviour on one site is not shared anywhere else. I’ve previously worked with technologies that tried to do this on a network level but it didn’t work then as the tech was too slow. DoubleClick moved away from network profiling in 2002 but, of course, technology has moved on and those working in that space should be able to be much more efficient.

The digital advertising industry is awash with people talking about behavioural targeting. I believe that reputable organisations will always exceed privacy legislation and protect their customers better than the law demands. After all, it’s in their interest. However, behavioural data requires so much analysis that I have to question if it is right for everybody. Certainly, publishers with a large user base who come back regularly might get some insight that would be useful to advertisers but we, as consumers, are complex beasts. Our likes and dislikes change based on many factors; advertising can help inform and change my mind and really don’t you want to advertise to all people interested in buying a car? Why just those who currently think it should be a new car? But what about my friends network or family? Aren’t they just as influential? We can’t look at their behaviours too but they are important in how I make decisions. Isn’t behavioural targeting too limiting then?

I believe it works in the right places. I believe that the technology I am working with is the best of breed for publishers. It’s anonymous and doesn’t enable any kind of network sharing so it’s good for consumers too. But finding the right use cases is the hard part.  How do I prove that this technology is working. I think we’ve some investigation to do yet.

I know that I am over simplifying arguments to make my point but I believe we have a lot of research to do in this space to find the true value of inferring things from my on-line behaviours. Inferences are either too simple or require a vast amount of data and analysis (which is expensive). I’ve got to spend the next few weeks reading a lot more data on this. If you’ve got anything that would be helpful then you know where I am.

Disclaimer: These are my view and not those of my employer. You have done the whole full disclosure thing, haven’t you?

Some People Are Helpful

The staff of the Orange shop in Wimbledon were very helpful. Thank you.

My mobile phone developed a fault. It started a few weeks ago but has made the device unusable now. There’s an electrical noise that became so bad other people couldn’t hear me. I could hear then but they had no idea what I was saying. So, I went to talk to the people at Orange and discovered they don’t have the right phone on the insurance that I have been paying for. They said it’s my fault, I said it was their fault. Anyway, after much discussion it appeared that I could upgrade for free anyway so there’s really not that much difference.

I spent a day or two thinking about what to do. I have had a Palm Treo 600 for several years. I think I must have mentioned before that it is not a perfect telephone but it does allow me to take a whole pile of numbers and information with me when I am on the road; and that is very useful indeed. So I decided to upgrade to the Treo 650. And that is where the problems started. The Orange shop I was in said that they have been unable to source a Treo for months and the other central London outlets that I contacted said the same. Other networks now offer the Treo so I contemplated switching – which is a big deal for me because I have an irrational loyalty to Orange despite recent poor service and packages I am not convinced are great value.

Fortunately, there were some very helpful people in the Orange store in Wimbledon. In fact, I can’t recommend that shop too highly and that is the point of this post. While other shops were unhelpful, Wimbledon were fantastic. It might have helped that they actually had the phone I wanted in stock but I think it deserves notice that they were more than helpful. So, on Wednesday I walked out with a shiny new Treo 650. Let’s see what it’s like.

But What Was The Year?

No matter how many times my media player tells me JoBoxers (and their classic, Boxerbeat) is from the 2005 compilation (Teenage Kicks) I know it’s a true pop treasure from 1983 (top ten in February no less).

Oh how I despair at all those compilation cds that are gracing my cd collection. Over the years I have collected a fair few. I think it’s something to do with being a pop fan. True pop is a three and a half minute tune mimed to some falling glitter snow surrounded by Pans People and introduced by The Hairy Cornflake.

To that end, the long player was never really on my turntables as a child. Thus, my musical memories are really quite happily contained across a collection of compilations.  This is all well and good until you come to rip them all so that you can add your youth to your mp3 player. For, lo, compilation cds neither sit well on mp3 machines nor do they rip well. The artist may be in the title box while the artist is just listed as ‘various’. I can live with that (I lie, I can correct that) but I can’t stand that the dates are incorrect. No matter how many times my media player tells me JoBoxers (and their classic, Boxerbeat) is from the 2005 compilation (Teenage Kicks) I know it’s a true pop treasure from 1983 (top ten in February no less). Thus, I must spend my evenings correcting each cd as it gets ripped.

My life will be over before this project is complete. My sanity will be gone sooner. But my mp3 player will know hits of 1978 are very different from those of 2002.

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