Tuesday, 17 February 2009

When Targeting Technology Goes Wrong

Increased targeting is one of the benefits most frequently associated with Online Marketing. The ability to use technology to target niche segments is considered a major advantage of the medium as it uses data to segment and identify key segments far more efficiently and quickly than a human ever could. However, using technology to target customers does not come without complications.

In one of my previous roles, I used Google content targeting to sell flights and holiday packages to European and Worldwide destinations. One day our PR team received a complaint from a distressed widow claiming that we were advertising our fantastic holidays on a memorial website adjacent to the written tributes for her recently deceased husband. His name was Mr. Madeira.


Google content network had obviously identified the content on the memorial website as relevant to the keywords within our campaign and shown what it deemed to be an appropriate advert within the adsense unit on the page.

Now in my opinion, Mrs. Madeira had every right to vent her fury at our company for displaying an advert on this page. I do believe however that her anger was misdirected. If I ran a memorial website, I would not look to have advertising on it unless I was specifically in responsible for the content that is there. I simply would not trust a content network that displays inventory algorithmically to place adverts that would be appropriate to my highly sensitive audience. The risk of upsetting my customer base would be too great.


Brands should always understand that the Internet is a very big place and that whatever targeting technology they implement, there is always a chance of upsetting minorities of the Internet population. Anyone who is involved in using technology to target and segment audiences understands this. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of the online population fit into this category.