Marketers concerned about threat to online targeting

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New York—Internet privacy fears and the possibility of federal regulation of behaviorally targeted advertising were prominent on the agenda of the New York Technology Council's Innovations in Media conference, held Dec. 2 in Manhattan.

The consensus of the panelists was that marketers and advertisers will eventually face some sort of governmental regulation of targeted advertising, but that the industry has to try to limit that regulation by allaying fears about intrusion into privacy.

”Legislators just don't understand,” said panelist Ari Bluman, president-North American sales and operations for digital marketing company 24/7 Real Media, of the push to regulate online advertising.

Bluman stressed that advertising often underwrites free user access to Internet content.

”When users have the choice between seeing targeted ads and having to pay to see anything on the Web, they'll find that targeted advertising isn't so bad,” he said.

This week, a new Federal Trade Commission report called for the implementation of an online “do not track” option that, if approved by lawmakers would significantly alter the way targeted advertising is conducted today.

“The thing that is wrong about digital advertising today is bad targeting,” said panelist Brian Adams, chief technology officer for marketing technology company AdMeld Inc. “As a result, publishers throw up five ads per page, and people see the same ads over and over again.

”The perfect ad for the perfect person is a blue-sky dream, but advertisers track because they need targeting to increase the value of advertising,” Adams said.

Joseph Plummer, another panelist and senior associate with research and consulting company Olson Zaltman Associates, agreed.

“ ‘Privacy' is the wrong word,” Plummer said. “It's data mining, the attempt to look for patterns to improve targeting. It only helps you measure categories, not find out about individuals.”

Mobile advertising is still a channel waiting for mainstream adoption, the panel agreed, but it's showing signs of strengthening.

“It's expected that mobile advertising in the U.S. will hit $3.5 billion this year and, compared with display ads, that's a pretty good proportion,” 24/7 Real Media's Bluman said.

Adams stressed the potency of offers, saying, “Coupons are a stalking horse for mobile to become more successful. When people see the savings, [it] will push things forward.”

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