IN-DEPTH: Targeted marketing – handle with care – Specialist – The Content Marketing Agency

IN-DEPTH: Targeted marketing – handle with care

Target Marketing

Could an increasingly sceptical public render targeted campaigns ineffective?

Efforts in the US to put the brakes on greater regulation of online data collection – in order to boost business – implies new marketing opportunities will open up to effectively target audiences.

At the same time, public concern about privacy and online advertising is likely to grow, suggesting that greater data collection and targeting may not deliver the marketing boost it promises.

Econsultancy’s recent eMarketer article: “How will consumers react to the removal of data protections?” showed how the Trump administration’s deregulation agenda could change the use of online data in the US.

In March, Congress voted to scrap rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission to forbid internet service providers from using information without customer consent. This brought these service providers in line with companies such as Facebook and Google in terms of how they can legally use and share data.

Though this policy may seem very positive for the world of data collection and targeted marketing, changing attitudes could create more risks than opportunities.

Though collecting browsing data may become easier, the arguments raised in Washington against the change in policy direction reflect the growing concerns many people have about privacy and online advertising.

Changing attitudes

While not a new issue – and perhaps not as current as “fake news” and other prevailing concerns – as data-use grows there is also a growing preoccupation about how online data is used.

Internet users are now far more aware of how their data is being used and monetised, undermining some of the promise offered by targeted marketing.

The ways in which views are changing towards online marketing points to ways marketers can continue to take advantage of online browsing data in targeting campaigns.

A YouGov UK poll carried out in 2015 showed that when used responsibly levels of trust felt towards certain types of advertising could actually increase.

But how can data be used in responsible marketing, delivering relevance and higher engagement?

Intrusive ads can do more harm than good

Within the YouGov study, customer opinions were broken down based on different online advertising techniques. A particular level of ire was reserved for that most intrusive of methods, the pop-up.

Many of the survey participants said that seeing a pop-up ad on a web page will immediately give them a strongly negative impression of the brand being advertised. The same issue is apparent with ads that create a sound automatically as soon as they load.

People are particularly resistant to the idea of having ads shown to them, rather than having a choice to look or not. Employing data-driven targeting within these advertisements could make the issue significantly worse, increasing the feeling of intrusion into the customer’s life and appearing extremely overbearing.

Banner ads are ignored

To prevent banner-ad blindness and to make effective use of banner advertising in 2017, some creative thinking can help a campaign stand out from the content the consumer is actually seeking out.

Ensuring banner ads work equally well across all devices is essential, while adding elements of interactivity beyond a simple ‘click here’ button can also boost performance.

The key focus when creating a banner ad should be something that is attention grabbing without slowing the page down. Most web browsers will generally not engage with an ad if it slows a page, and will actively avoid a site known for having slow loading times.

Once again, the employment of heavily targeted advertising in this manner may be a dangerous game to play, unless perfectly executed. Getting targeting wrong – heavily advertising a recently purchased product – could be far more detrimental to brand perception than beneficial.

Create native content to avoid ad-blocks

Though a number of internet users do feel misled by sponsored content online, very few actively avoid it, and most readers seem happy enough to accept and enjoy native content.

“I wouldn’t care who wrote it if it was informative and interesting.
I would only be annoyed if I read a story and realized it was advertising half way through.”


Sponsored content on a site will also not be detected as advertising by applications such as Adblock, so the chances of your content reaching a wider audience are much higher.

However, it is worth noting that YouGov’s study on native advertising did indicate some areas in which sponsored content is strongly opposed. In the worlds of news, politics and finance, it is often believed that a sponsored piece of writing is prone to bias.

That survey suggested that native content presenting ‘lighter’ information may be more successful. This may be about illustrating to the reader how a product or service could improve their life, rather than simply displaying its uses.

Perception awareness

While disengagement with online advertising and, for some, blocking of ads altogether may be rising, the potential for greater data collection for targeted marketing may disappoint. If they are not already there, internet users will become increasingly aware of how their online data is being played back at them through marketing campaigns.

Shifting strategy to take more care with targeted marketing – and to reflect changing opinion on the collection and use of browsing data – can help brand messages reach their intended audience. For example, even if certain approaches provoke more favourable reactions, individuals shouldn’t be over-targeted.

Marketers can help change the perception of targeted marketing. Campaigns that prioritise the transparent sharing of genuinely useful, relevant information in an unobtrusive format can retain their appeal and a positive reception, even as concern over greater targeting grows.