A Duck is a Duck, Unless it’s Not a Duck – Behavioral Advertising Goes Quack

Everyday, you walk down the street with your iPod plugged in to your am “pump you up” tunes, getting ready to tackle the day. You stop by the bodega to pick up a pack of gum. You grab a cup of coffee next door. All in all, you walked 6 blocks plus your subway ride.

In a typical stroll like this, you’ve been hit by anywhere between 20-70 advertisements. Did you notice any of them? Did any of them make you stop and wonder? Or perhaps, tomorrow when you take your stroll down from the subway with your iPod plugged in to a different set of tunes, do you pick up a different pack of gum and maybe an energy drink because of the revolving banner ad you glanced at and dismissed while rushing by but immediately noticed in the drink fridge at the bodega the next day?

An ad is not just an ad. It’s a piece of data for you to store in your short-term memory. Bets are being placed everyday that a percentage of you who put that data set tucked away will recall it at the right time and place. Year over year, the effectiveness of ads goes down as the market saturates our brains and we can only store so many pockets of data.

Web advertising however takes things to a whole new level – where the source of advertising personalization is often coming straight from you. You can now be bombarded with the same number of ads – only all of the ads are relevant to something that you’ve been interested in or are currently interested in buying. Lucky you!

There have been varying levels of pushback regarding the personalization of advertising ranging from the “invasion of personal privacy” argument to “removal of our ability to freely choose without influence”. I however am a proponent of optimized behavioral advertising. We’ve already been engaging with behavioral advertising in ways that “feel” less intrusive but conceptually are exactly the same. What do you think Apple’s iTunes Genius does? Aren’t you sometimes thankful that you found your new favorite song? Pandora does the same thing. So does any intelligent search engine – you enter this, you might actually be thinking of this.

An ad is not just an ad, no matter where you are seeing it. As advertisers continue to get smarter about how they target you, you are also going to get smarter about how you subconsciously accept and pocket these pieces of data. I guess nothing really is what you think it is – except maybe a duck?

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