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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.

Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”



By Gina Danner on Aug 29, 2018

One of the things that is so interesting is that many digital ad campaigns typically cost about as much as a mail piece to target an individual. When you look at frequency plans and the number of ads that need to be delivered to gain engagement.

Everyone claims that digital is less expensive, and in a cost per impression model it is, but when we analyze cost per sale we realize that the right mix for many products is an integrated physical (direct mail) and digital campaign.

The challenge for direct mail is the "attribution" conversation that is rampant in the marketing world along with the "customer journey" conversation. All too often PSPs are ill equipped to have those conversations.

Over and over again we are proving out with campaigns that use a multi-channel approach (and include print) out perform single channel no matter the channel. This truly is a place where 1+1+1 is more than 3. Sometimes, exponentially more.


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