Last Week In Digital Advertising #2

So, where did we leave off? Well, it really does seem like a the conversation was broken mid-stream as we find ourselves more-or-less at the same point we finished on. There remains considerable discussion around the Wall Street Journal’s ‘investigations’ into advertising tracking. ClickZ asked, perhaps a little hysterically, if this was the end of behavioural targeting and challenged everybody – including consumers – to be aware and modify behaviours where necessary. Sage advice.

One week in, and I’m already moving things around – but you don’t want to know about that, do you? It’s just to confuse you a little. I’m taking my cue from Inception: create something that everybody thinks they understand and then throw in the curve ball.  Suffice to say the ‘product’ guy in me was thinking that my little review of the week is best located somewhere that allowed me to do more than just write this weekly missive which is why it’s moved here.  I have no idea what the ‘do more’ bit actually is – so you’ll have to hang around (or, I imagine, you could ask Mystic Meg).

So, where did we leave off?  Well, it really does seem like a the conversation was broken mid-stream as we find ourselves more-or-less at the same point we finished on. There remains considerable discussion around the Wall Street Journal’s ‘investigations’ into advertising tracking. As @exchangewire asked, “When is this hysteria going to cease”? Here they are, asking it. ClickZ asked, perhaps a little hysterically (but only in a journalistic sense, you understand) if this was the end of behavioural targeting and challenged everybody – including consumers – to be aware and modify behaviours where necessary. Sage advice.

USA Today claimed in what,  sadly, will not be the last of the cookie puns, “these ‘cookies’ aren’t tasty; you’re left hungry for privacy” but at least published an opinion piece, in which Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the US Interactive Advertising Bureau, asked people not to fall for the “wild debate” about websites using “tracking tools” to “spy” on people. And he has a point. A quick hop across to a site called Web Design Resources and you’ll find a piece suggesting digital advertisers “invented advertising technology that would scour through the cookies on your personal machine”.  Such language is neither an accurate portrayal of what’s happening nor helpful in explaining exactly what is going on, so the challenge is to move on from this kind of language to better education.

The Wall Street Journal, of course, printed other opinions too. Jim Harper published an interesting counter-argument, reminding those who need such reminders that cookie debates have been running for, more-or-less, as long as the web has been a major route to media consumption and it was considered an advertising channel. He tried to put some of the extremes of the ‘the cookie monster is coming’ argument into perspective:

“Surreptitious” use of cookies is one of the weaker complaints. Cookies have been integral to Web browsing since the beginning, and their privacy consequences have been a subject of public discussion for over a decade. Cookies are a surreptitious threat to privacy the way smoking is a surreptitious threat to health. If you don’t know about it, you haven’t been paying attention.

He even ventured as far as to suggest that we need to consider the trade off: think about what you get back from allowing cookies to be set but I am not seeing much mainstream media pick up on this. Now, where is all this going? New Media Age, quoted a TNS survey which is may be helpful (although I suspect not) in suggesting 65% of people see targeted ads as an abuse of their privacy, even though 64% welcome more relevant ads. Go figure how we’ll make that work. It’s all in the asking, huh? Obviously, much more discussion – and a lot of work – to come.  And as Tech firms come out to be clear that their data is anonymous, non-personal information, perhaps Bizo Blog, quoted on an AdMosters forum, said it best, “there are no monsters hiding under the bed”.

What else did we learn last week? How about the – not so shocking – information that “Canadians spend more time on the Internet than they do watching TV, listening to the radio or reading newspapers” yet advertisers are not allocating budgets to reflect that? Still, digital ad revenues in Canada got to $1.82B in 2009. Which, if reporting is to believed, is only marginally ahead of predictions for Facebook’s advertising revenues this year (at $1.3B). And yes, I am well aware those two stories are – probably – quoting different versions of the dollar, but it’s a much nicer segue to leave it like that. Facebook is, according to unnamed sources quoted by Net Imperative (in turn, quoting unnamed sources in the New York Times – gee, I can see how these rumours start), planning a strategic alliance with AOL, whose revenue, from subscriptions and advertising, in 2009 was four-times that of the predicted Facebook revenue (at $4.2B) but heading full pace off the end of that pier.

The enormous rise of Facebook was, amongst others, a reason ClickZ posed the question “Social: The Next Frontier of Behavioral Targeting?”. Really, as I noted on Twitter, you do not need the question mark there. Yes, it won’t come as a shock to anybody.

In other snippets, I thought it worth noting BrightRoll’s launch a self-service ad exchange for trading video inventory, as an indicator that online video will need the same sophisticated optimisation, trading and data tools as more ‘traditional’ formats have today. And need them quickly. eMarketer reported that almost 59% of US adults had watched full length TV shows online, “reflecting a shift in the content mix from short user-generated clips to full-length professional content”.

Not much mention of mobile this week, although ClickZ (who must get an award for being my favourite source of news this week), reported that, as mobile advertising becomes something agencies use more and more,  “companies in the space are continuing to attract investment” and cited Apple’s iAd as giving a boost to the market. My little 3 tweets we learnt about iAd (1, 2, 3) was sourced for an LA Times article on the topic but I think those tweets said it all and don’t need repeating.

So, did we reach the end of the week more informed or more confused? I’d love to extend Scott Portugal’s “confused sea condition” metaphor and ramble on about lifeboats and the like. But I can’t extend it any more than I did in a tweet on Friday – so I, sort of, blew that. His article was about ad technologies and how to survive changing market conditions and is worth a read (no Mae West needed). One thing I did want to follow-up on was a report suggesting that “One cannot be confident whether the findings of most IAE [internet ad effectiveness] studies are right or wrong” which is, perhaps, something to think about.

Now, why not comment and follow all this week’s industry news at @curns or even send me your ideas for digital advertising news? Go on, you know you want to.

Author: jon

Jon Curnow writes on curnow.org about things that interest him. The site has been around for many years in various forms and he always wants to write much more here than he does.

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