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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why is everyone so afraid of demo/geo targeting?

Target: acquired.
I don't know if some people are finally clueing in or if the media is looking for something else to scare people with, but demographic and geographic targeting seems to have gotten a little more attention lately it seems.

Either way, people as always, fear some conspiracy of an invasion of privacy for less than good intentions.

First off, if you haven't heard of either, demographic and geographic targeting are methods that internet marketers and market researchers use to ensure that their ad or research dollars are well spent, and reaching their target audience.  Based on the information that users of different sites willingly provide about themselves, market researchers can ensure that they're collecting useful information about the proper demographic, and marketers can ensure that the intended people are being exposed to their marketing communications.

Oh no, they can find me!
Wait, they always could.
Now, I can understand the fear of having your information used for something... if you're a conspiracy theorist.  Honestly, if someone wants to know your demographic information, they can use StatsCan, a phonebook, the internet and a little intuition to find out the same information used in geo/demo targeting.

If you want to see it firsthand for yourselves, go to Facebook and click the "Create an Ad" link above the ads on the right side of your news feed.  You can follow the step by step instructions right up to the payment step and see what kind of reach your ad would receive, based on the criteria you've entered, without any commitment or, obviously payment, so give it a try.  You can make sure that you're only paying for gay men in a relationship between the ages of 18-25 in Montreal, Canada that have a college degree, like Metallica, hockey and cooking are seeing your ads.

For the record, that's 60 people.  And probably the only 60 men I'd leave my girlfriend for.


Estimated Reach

60 people
  • who live in Canada
  • who live within 50 miles ofMontreal, QC
  • between the ages of 18 and25 inclusive
  • who are male
  • who like #Metallica,#Hockey or #Cooking
  • who graduated from college
  • who are engaged or in a relationship
  • who are interested in men


You can obviously see the importance and emergence of geo/demo targeting from the marketer's (or market researcher's) perspective, but is there a benefit to the user, to the consumer, to you?

The answer is yes, and here's why.

They go hand in hand.
You are going to see ads, it's a fact of life. Everywhere. Online and in the real world. The reason most people tune out to advertising and more important to marketers, why advertising in traditional media is so expensive, is because there is so much content that is improperly targeted.  As I type this, there's an ad for Nivea Skincare for women and Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on TV, neither of which interest me.  So, ask yourself this; what was the last major purchase you made? Did you do any research about it pre-purchase? If you answered 'yes' to the latter question, then did you pay attention to any advertising regarding that product?  Now imagine if every ad you saw was for a product that you were interested in.  If those two ads on TV were for a Les Paul guitar and the new Call of Duty game, I wouldn't have zoned out.

THAT's why geo/demo targeting is a good idea, and should not be feared.

Marketers are more effective when they can expose you to marketing communications that you are interested in and you are less likely to be annoyed by irrelevant advertising as well.  That is why they want your information, not because they intend to sell it in a back alley to someone that wants to steal your identity and do ungodly things in your name.

I have a feeling that this sentiment will fade, much like the initial fear of having satellites in the sky, or GPS in our phones, or Google Maps able to see the entire world.  I remember all 3 of them being met with the same skepticism and conspiracy theoretical fear.

I'd be willing to bet that all 3 are a fundamental part of your life today. Remember that the next time that you are crying out about a breach in privacy because of these targeting techniques.