Targeted Ads

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Marketing theory

Image courtesy Lucasfilm

Targeted advertising was born out of the need to have relevance. When we see adverts, unless they bear some relevance to our current desires, needs or interests, then we naturally ignore them. This makes them a waste of time for us and waste of money for the advertiser (although of course the advertising platform owner still gets money from it).

Social media advertising at its basic level uses your interests generated from activity such as likes and follows to predict areas that you might be interested in seeing ads in. More complex systems use keywords and hashtags you may have used to further focus your predicted interest areas. The more advanced platforms are using emotional indicators (how often you engage, the type of engagement and any emotional responses you make) to predict when you are most likely to respond to an ad. They also try and predict when you are more likely to switch products.

Print advertising (more specifically Direct Mail) on the other hand can use information such as census data, postal customer and business data, life event data such as moving, getting married etc. to target potential customers. When this information is combined with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data, marketers and advertisers can put out some very effective content. The Royal British Legion’s ‘Every Man Remembered’ campaign being a prime example.

On the positive side, using targeting means that the adverts we see become more relevant to us. Are more useful and much more likely to generate some level of interest. It means that small business can afford to advertise to us when previously the cost would have been prohibitive, meaning we can support small and micro businesses without having to travel to them. It also means in theory that we don’t have to put up with ads for things that we would probably never even think about buying nor want to.

There is, of course, an ethical dimension to targeted ads that needs to be considered. In some cases, the process of data gathering may be illegal or contravene various standards. It can also be perceived as a form of corporate stalking. We can sometimes feel disconcerted at the level of information an advertiser seems to have about us (the caller who thought a caravan company were listening in to his phone calls for example, or when we see ads with our name in) and this creates a negative response. And of course, when we see our data misused on a large scale, such as the Cambridge Analytica case, this has a negative impact on our society, which should never be the goal of a marketer!

Sam Copland

Sam has had 20 years industry experience in both public and private sector marketing before becoming a Lecturer. Conducting research and analysis of business trends, consumer behaviour and emerging technologies has been a major part of Sam’s work. His current topics of research are:

  • Organisational approaches to technology adoption
  • The role of AI in creative marketing
  • Utopian structures in the digital realm and their effect on human behaviours
  • How organisations can integrate and leverage CRM systems to maximum effect
  • The role of a Sprint approach to project management in a learning environment  

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