Have you noticed the little i in some internet adverts? Well, in case you weren’t aware, the i indicates a behaviourally targeted advert, i.e. an advert that is sent to you because of the websites you have visited. While there are many privacy issues surrounding this tactic (I’ll talk about those some other time), let me ask first: how good is this? The idea is seemingly convincing: once you visit a particular website, like for example easyJet, you can then be reminded of the offer on a different website. At face value this makes quite some sense, i.e. the advert appears a few days later and reminds the viewer of what he/she has seen, the offers etc… Good in practice, but… there is a hitch in the process.
For example, I recently checked flight prices on easyJet’s website to Malta and Paris. Now, every few days, I get reminded with a big bright advert asking me “Do you still want to go to Malta?” or “Do you still want to go to Paris?” and giving me an appropriate flight price. But what seems really nice in theory, rapidly turns into reactance on my part. It almost smacks of those annoying restaurant touts that you run after you offering free drinks in tourist hotspots, hoping that somehow they can make you purchase something you didn’t want. Yes, I did check the flights (and prices), and I also decided not to buy them (at least at that time). So what good does it do to remind me of them again? Unfortunately, easyJet isn’t the only company I seem to encounter regularly. I recently order some shirts (yes, actually ordered them) and guess what? I’m being asked to buy the same shirts again every few days. Similarly, Amazon advertising seems to remind me to buy the book I recently bought…?
This kind of targeting has two massive problems:
Firstly it constantly targets the same people (those that either bought or decided not to buy), and my own reaction as well as good old reactance theory would suggest that this will simply lead to negative feelings towards the brand and the product.
Secondly, constantly advertising to the same people totally neglects the need to achieve reach, i.e. a wide audience, which is arguably more important than well targeted advertising. Take the example of the shirt offer: If you have been to the site, you will know the offer. Reiterating the offer is pointless. People who are most likely to respond to the offer (at least in the short term) are people who DON’T already know about the offer, not people who have already decided how they feel about the offer.
Thus, behaviourally targeted advertising has, even if you don’t consider issues such as privacy and how people feel about that, two major negative points that are totally overlooked. Both, of course, have the potential to be extremely damaging to the brand. At least in my case, if and when I ever decide to fly to Malta, I’ll surely try to fly Air Malta first… Thanks easyJet!