The Behaviorally Targeted Generation

The Internet has accelerated "generation numbness" -- some kids today aren't concerned about the type of information they post to the Internet because they think the search engines of tomorrow should know how they feel today. The information helps marketers target them with ads. It doesn't get much more personal than that.

Last week at MediaPost's Search Insider Summit in Captiva, Fla.,Jen Milks and Michelle Prieb, project managers at Ball State University, shared insights on how a handful of kids would redesign Google given the chance. The group discussed behaviorally targeted ads during the end of the session.

Milks and Prieb said the students embrace who they are, so it's okay if marketers want to target the "influencers" with ads based on the information they give in profiles. When social meets search, people will have more options to rate the ad to make "it go away." The students want social results, marketing ads and content in search results. It seems almost as if the students want to build a relationship with search engines and brands based on behaviorally targeted ads and content.

A conference attendee from BlueKai noted that the university students probably don't know marketers can target them based on around 5,500 variables -- and soon they will have an icon they can click on to tell them who's hitting them with ads. Milks said the students will likely want the option, but they're not in the mindset where they will change their way, or the information in their profiles and privacy settings -- not until the students make the transition from college to the workplace. Life changes will prompt this generation to clean up their act. The students are the "me" generation living in the "now."

Marketers at the conference told me that when they transitioned from college to the work force, their social profiles changed -- and so did the ads that follow them from Web site to Web site.

The field clinical engineer for cardiac rhythm devices I met on the plane returning from the Summit watches his online profiles and activities closely. He's less concerned about being targeted with ads by marketers than with how his thirst for adventure could prompt insurance agencies to either cancel or raise rates on medical and life insurance, using photos on Facebook or LinkedIn as evidence. Interesting.

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