Commentary & Analysis
When Personalized Ads Aren’t Personal
Digital marketing claims to have the corner on truly personalized experiences, but does it really? How can print compete? Accuracy.
By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: August 29, 2018
In the digital world, a website visitor’s every move can be tracked. Digital ads can be served up based on online behavior and psychographic profiling. Customers get what they need, and marketers make more money. It’s the perfect marriage of technology and consumer need.
How can print compete? With accuracy.
Online personalization is largely based on cookies, algorithms, and artificial intelligence (AI). It’s only as good as the technology allows it to be. Sometimes online personalization can be highly accurate and get great results. Other times, it can be painfully inaccurate and downright embarrassing.
I was listening to my favorite radio station the other day, and the two DJs were talking about digital ads being served up that made no sense. Spawning the conversation was the fact that one of the DJs had just purchased a rug, and mysteriously, ads began popping up in her social media feeds for the same product. She was mystified. If the retailer knew that she was interested in the rug, shouldn’t it have also known that she bought it? Why was she seeing ads for a rug that she already owned? It didn’t give her a positive impression of the retailer. The other DJ shared having a similar experience with a different product.
Let’s be honest. Raise your hand if the same thing has happened to you.
Personalization is great...when it works. Unlike getting a direct mailer that isn’t relevant, however, poor digital ad targeting creates a sense of violation of privacy and betrayal. Get it right and people will tolerate the invasion of their privacy. Get it wrong and they will feel violated and betrayed.
According to research from Accenture, 41% of consumers say they have switched brands because of “poor personalization.” Fifty percent say that they did so because of “poor customer experience.” Experiences like the one described above certainly poor. In total, Accenture finds, bad personalization results in a $756 billion in lost retail and brand sales.
For print, the opportunity remains to do what digital can do, only better. In large part, it’s the incorporation of the human element. Do what digital personalization often does not. Be relevant. Build databases and use real, human intelligence to craft your strategy. Create positive, truly relevant experiences that are useful to the people you’re targeting.
In other words, get out there and show digital how it’s done.