March 11, 2009

Google's Move to Behavior Ad Targeting Should be Excellent for All

Today's Tech Web is ablaze with discussion around Google's announcement that they will be moving more toward behavioral targeted advertising in its offerings, letting advertisers learn more about the users they are messaging to, and, hopefully, letting consumers see advertisements that are more accurate, more targeted, and more interesting. If done well, advertisers will see higher click-through rates, consumers will be less irritated with off-topic ads, and Google will continue to make even more money.

Thanks to some of my more direct comments on advertising, I might be seen as being anti-ads in general, but that's really not the case. As often as I skip commercials and avoid ad banners, that's as much a function of them being completely nonsensical and having nothing to do with me as it is a function of some holy war against the market.

In June of 2008, I posted a comment using GMail/Google Talk to FriendFeed, saying, “I've seen a lot of stories lately around behavioral targeted advertising, and privacy. But in theory, wouldn't you rather see more relevant ads? Isn't this a good thing?"

It was my position that people were (and are) worried about passing data to a central source, and having Big Brother watch their online activity, but that I felt the concerns were overwrought. I have a tendency first, to trust services, and second, to expect the notion of privacy has changed dramatically in a world where we post all our particulars to LinkedIn and Facebook anyway.

At the time, responses ranged from Susan Beebe's direct, "I HATE online ADS . period. They suck big time," to Mark Krynsky's more diplomatic take, when he said, "I think it's a win for both advertisers and users and since I realize that ads are what allow me to receive great free content and services I welcome them."

Ads aren't going away. While my previous comments centered around what people should expect in terms of revenue from ads, or the ads being completely unqualified, today's move by Google signals a giant shift change in terms of what people should expect in this market. They're not the first company to embrace behavioral targeted advertising, but as the biggest, it should have wide ramifications.

I hope that this move means I will see fewer banner ads for dancing monkeys and silhouettes offering me low mortgages, and more ads for tech gear and sports items. I hope that Google's new direction means fewer false guesses of my interests, based on keywords in the content I'm reading, and more correct guesses, based on sites I visit - and trust me, I'm on the Web practically all day long, so the wrongness adds up. I for one welcome our new behavioral advertising overlords.