Tracking is Good
When I drive around in my car listening to the radio, I find the ads annoying. Unless they are about something I care about. Then I listen intently.
When I watch TV, I experience the same thing. For the most part, I fast forward through the ads on the Tivo. But if it’s an ad for something I care about, I slow down the Tivo and watch the ad.
The same is true with email. I hit the delete button pretty quickly for most email marketing messages. But if an email comes in with information about something that matters to me, I read it carefully.
Advertising is content when its relevant and its an annoyance when its not.
Walt Mossberg started a recent column this comment:
Suppose you bought a TV set that included a component to track what you watched, and then reported that data back to a company that used or sold it for advertising purposes. Only nobody told you the tracking technology was there or asked your permission to use it.
You would likely be outraged at this violation of privacy.
To the contrary, I’d be overjoyed. Because tracking consumer behavior is the best way to deliver relevancy. And I want relevancy in my advertising. Badly.
I am not suggesting that the tracking should be done without my consent and awareness, but honestly I’d prefer that over no tracking if it means that I’d get some relevancy in the ads that come my way.
Unfortunately, the first attempts at tracking consumer behavior on the Internet were made by companies that messed with our computers. They threw ads at us in new browser windows (pop-ups and pop-unders). They put executable software on our computers that slowed them down and in extreme cases made them unusable. And so the process of tracking consumer behavior has unfortunately been married with the term “spyware” in the minds of many consumers.
But the bad guys are getting shut down and/or coming clean and the good guys are starting to embrace behavioral tracking as a way to target advertising. But these efforts by the good guys are getting slammed by privacy advocates trying to establish tracking as something that is bad.
That is something that needs to change. Because if we are ever going to get more relevancy in our advertising systems, something I crave and I suspect most people crave, then we need to allow tracking to flourish.
Obviously we need rules about what is acceptable and what is not.
Does anyone get upset when Amazon makes recommendations based on past purchase behavior? I think not. My guess is most people love that.
Does anyone get upset when you get ads from Google that match the search term you just typed in? I think not.
Does anyone get upset when the NY Times runs travel ads at you on the front page when you’ve recently visited their travel section? I doubt it.
These are all examples of using consumer behavior to provide relevancy in advertising.
It’s the future of advertising and it’s great for everyone.
Marketers love it because it makes their ad spend more efficient.
Publishers love it because it monetizes their pages better.
And consumers love it because the ads become content instead of noise.
Signal over noise. That’s what we all want. And tracking is the way to get it.
So track my behavior please.
Union Square Ventures and Flatiron Partners have investments in a number of digital marketing services companies that use various techniques to increase the relevancy of advertising. And we hope to invest in more over time. We are big believers in the power of targeted advertising and are putting our money where our mouth is.