OMMA Social: Do Behavioral Targeting and Social Media Tread a Star-Crossed Path?


OMMA Social went down at the Yale Club all of yesterday. I arrived around 2:50 or so, in time to catch part of "Behavioral Targeting: How to Connect with the Right People in Social Media."

Here's a taste of what I heard. (catch photos here.)

Right at outset, Paul Beck of Ogilvy said something that would resonate for the rest of the session: behavioral targeting isn't ready to become a strategic priority in the realm of social media. It just isn't where it should be. There's a difference between someone who lists "golf" as an interest and someone who justifies that claim with positive purchasing behavior, he pointed out.

I think he meant that conscious user input -- where people say they're from, what they say they like -- is currently social networks' big selling point as an ad platform. But targeting to a grid of supposed "interests" isn't really fertile soil for conversions.

So how do you tie behavioral targeting to social media? Post-Beacon, Facebook and MySpace increasingly record and display user behavior: things people do but don't necessarily mean to broadcast to friends. When I review a restaurant on Yelp, or a book on Shelfari, Facebook makes sure everyone I know is aware.

Creepy, right? Not creepy enough to fully benefit advertisers. However much we dance for the Facebook psychographic peep show, it isn't without limits: we do plenty more online besides review restaurants and organize virtual bookshelves.

So when Beck suggested behavioral targeting isn't quite where it could be in social media, did he mean that social networks -- and all sites, really -- would be better served if users were targeted at the ISP level?

Oops! There's yolk all over my shoe. Ad-serving platforms like NebuAd and Phorm, which use data from ISPs to serve us hyper-targeted ads on participating websites, took a media beating in their efforts to demonstrate they aren't really invasive; they're helpful to advertisers, publishers and consumers.

But I digress. Back to the panel.

Samantha Skey said Alloy (and incidentally, Harris) conducted a study that found co-eds are "acutely aware" of being targeted for ad purposes, and they don't mind. In fact, they prefer more targeted ads. But they are extremely intolerant of irrelevant messages.

Adding to that, Andrew Monfried of Lotame ranted, "[Kids] are getting a lot of ads [on social networks] that are disgustingly horrific: 'Shoot the monkey!', 'Shoot the rapper!' 'What fries do you like best?'"

He scoffed as if to say, These are your targeted ads? Bitch, please!

"Often, they've seen them 4000 times," he went on, and that's a damn good point, because everybody in the room knows what he means: the air grew tight as over 100 anxious, middle-aged marketers were privately and simultaneously haunted by the image of a malicious monkey, leaping across the MySpace horizon.

"How about THIS, guys." Monfried faced the crowded room, knocking many of us out of imagined monkey prisons. "Less ads, and higher quality."

And again we were paralyzed by the prospect of removing valuable ad "real estate." I can already hear the howls of CEOs back at office central. "I DON'T CARE IF PEOPLE HATE THAT INTERSTITIAL! SOMEBODY'S CLICKING ON IT!"

Sometime at the conclusion of the panel, Beck raised the topic of Twitter (at the expense of which many moderators had already joked. "They're twittering that! Har har." Squares).

Treat Twitter like a feedback tool, Beck urged. "That is the core of what social media's all about."

by Angela Natividad    Jun-24-08   Click to Comment   
Topic: Industry Events   

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