Walking the tightrope between effective targeting and alarming your audience

In a relentless quest for innovation and efficiency, online marketing seems to have ignored real-world etiquette.

Multiple devices

Consumers are often taken aback by how much brands track their online activity to deliver highly personalised ads, leaving them feeling that their privacy has been violated.

This is now coming to a head with the rise of ad blocking.

15% of UK internet users are already using ad blocking software. As a result, brands need to tread carefully, delivering highly engaging messaging that enhances the consumer experience instead of irritating them to the point they seek an ad blocker.

So, what can brands do to reassure consumers their privacy is not under threat and to embrace the benefits of personalised cross-device advertising?

Pitch relevance at the right level
Irrelevant advertising isn’t only ineffective; it can be offensive. Delivering ads for payday loans to people who don’t need them is a good example of poor targeting that may be viewed as insulting.

Advertisers’ approach should differ by platform, as the consumer’s mindset can vary significantly depending on what device they are using, for instance, the smartphone is a user’s most personal connected screen so the boundaries of privacy will differ to other devices.

On the morning commute, phone usage prevails, as does content consumption over creation; during the day, desktop is the dominant device, used primarily for content creation. Consider the screen, the time of day, and how active you are asking the user to be, taking these variables into account.

International cross-device campaigns require meticulous attention when determining the degree to which individuals are personally targeted. Cultural differences mean ad campaigns considered acceptable in one country, could be viewed as invasive in another.

Simply translating marketing messages into different languages is not good enough; the nuances of each country and culture need to be fully understood and considered to achieve the optimum level of personalisation.

Communicate with consumers
Consumers are in the dark about the specific data brands are collecting on them, why they are collecting it and what they are doing with it. Brands’ reluctance to explain their data collection and targeting practises only serves to fuels unease and suspicion.

Openness and transparency are essential to gaining trust, and improved communication will help consumers understand the benefits targeting can bring.

Being respectful of the consumer is vital so where possible, brands should ask permission to exchange information and provide a simple opt-out for data collection. For campaigns that cross international borders, compliance with local privacy laws is crucial.

Reward customers in exchange for data
Cross-device targeting has multiple benefits for consumers. When brands can consistently identify users across devices they truly begin to understand what their audience wants and what stage they are at on the path to purchase. This type of audience analysis allows brands to deliver appropriate, useful content at the right time and at optimum frequency.

Despite the benefits of targeting, obtaining and retaining consumer acceptance often requires more tangible rewards such as loyalty points, personalised special offers, or access to exclusive products or services. Consumers are more willing to share their personal data when they feel they are receiving something in return.

Cross-device targeting presents exciting opportunities to deliver relevant, engaging messaging to consumers, based on their interests, context and position on the path to conversion, but brands must be careful not to overstep the mark. By achieving the optimum level of personalisation, communicating openly with consumers, and providing a value exchange, brands can walk the tightrope between effective targeting and alarming their audience.

Ben Walmsley is regional VP, Northern Europe, at Sizmek