How Much Targeting Is Too Much?

Mike Germano of CarrotLawmakers are prepping legislation about online privacy and trade groups are tightening self-regulatory standards. But do consumers care whether marketers send ads to them based on their Web activity?

Mike Germano, the 20-something co-founder and president of Carrot Creative, says the answer is no.

Speaking at a panel at the OMMA Social conference Tuesday, Germano said that his generation is not concerned by the prospect of their data being mined for online ad-targeting.

"A call at dinnertime is an intrusion." he said. Mail at home? Likewise an intrusion. But online ads are "going to be there regardless," so they may as well be for something people are interested in.

Germano, who graduated from college five years ago, asserted that other members of the Facebook generation assume that information about themselves is being used and shared. In fact, he said, Facebook members are more troubled by revisions to the site's interface than changes affecting privacy.

But the three other panelists -- Farid Chaouki, creative director at MRM Worldwide, Gina Kim, director of industry services at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and Surya Yalamanchili, director, product marketing at SocialMedia.com -- disagreed with Germano's assessment.

They argued that even if some people say they don't care about privacy, other Web users have said they want to control who has access to information about themselves. Therefore, the other panelists said, it's in consumers' interests -- as well as advertisers' -- to make sure that users understand how to exert control over their data.

Germano has taken a hard-line position on this subject before. He previously argued that marketers can "be a bit selfish" about using data. "Minor information about [people's] favorite food or sports team turns into data that marketers have been dreaming of for years," he wrote recently on Carrot's blog. "Accept the fact that people are comfortable exposing themselves online and we can capitalize on this for our own purposes. Yes, we can be a bit selfish as marketers now and do this."

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