Thursday, August 20, 2009

Week 5: Web Metrics and Marketing Research, 1

I've been waiting for the chance to mention this, but before this class started my curiosity about online marketing was piqued when I read this NY Times article on the trend among marketers towards using more robust analytics to monitor and manage their internet efforts. I don't have a background in marketing, so this article was really illuminating for me and whet my appetite for this class. Now, having read chapter 4 of "Always On" and the first chapter of "The Numerati," I have a better understanding of the context around this movement and the forces driving it.

Still, it's very hard for me to not think about this from the consumer perspective; mostly, I'm distracted by the Orwellian creepiness of being watched and monitored and analyzed all the time. My behavior contradicts my concerns, however - there's nothing stopping me from flipping the switch to prevent sites from placing cookies on my pc, and yet I don't. I can't help but think that if the virtual locations I visited knew me better, it would enrich the quality of my digital experiences in a more profound way, even more so than the simple convenience of not having to remind my favorites sites who I am each time I visit them ("who was my favorite childhood pet - Lulu or Jack? Do I have to choose? Again?").

Perfectly targeted marketing would be a godsend to me as a consumer, at least to the extent that the value propositions were legitimate, but we aren't there yet, and it's going to be a tedious trip getting there. As it stands now, I can almost spell out the simplistic machinations going on that determine why I was shown this or that ad. Sometimes, it's offensive (stop pushing the singles sites - I'm happily married, damn it! Is my wife going to get suspicious when she sees what ads Yahoo! thinks interest me? Maybe there's a good sitcom plot in here somewhere...).

Still, I can see why people are trying: even a marketing neophyte like me can imagine that innovations along these lines - not just to target ads more accurately but also to measure their true impact and make adjustments on the fly - are going to be richly rewarded.

1 comment:

  1. The inappropriate ads appearing on your computer are a good indication that advertisers have not yet achieved the pinpoint targeting that many fear. Yet, I understand (and share) your concern about the lack of privacy and intrusiveness that are creeping into our lives. Ideally, customizing content on the web should make shopping more like visiting the small neighborhood store, where the proprietor knew you, remembered your likes and dislikes, and was able to offer personalized service. That's one possibility.

    What bothers me personally is that when I am on the internet doing research or communicating with friends, colleagures, or students, I am not shopping. I am not interested at all in seeing ads for products. At best these ads are noise that I can filter out. At worst, they spoil the internet experience and slow down my work.

    I'm not sure where this will lead. Perhaps there will be a way to have more paid entry to the web (hopefully not at exhorbitant prices) so that the advertising is removed or reduced. Marketing using the web is not just banner ads.