Commentary

Is Mass Personalization Too Oxymoronic?

Adobe recently polled over 1,000 marketers across North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia on the topic of optimization, per a company blog post. The top 20% of businesses surveyed reported conversion rates of 4.5%, while the average was 2.6%.

Adobe found that those 20% of businesses spend at least 5% of their budgets on optimization. The report also found that the key focus of “optimization” is “personalization.”

That’s a buzzwordy, Hyperbabble of the Day-worthy sentence, but I think it’s important to note because it highlights the digital ad industry’s focus on the individual, seemingly regardless of context. It goes hand-in-hand with the industry’s interest in audience-buying instead of media-buying.

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Not so fast. While Adobe found that 75% of respondents believe that personalization is important to their organization’s long-terms goals, the report also notes that the majority of respondents said they are currently held back from using personalization as much as they’d like because of budgets, time and a lack of people with the proper skill sets.

Maybe I’m being too cynical, but being constrained by “budgets, time and people with the needed skill sets” seems like a facade. Those can be legitimate excuses, but I’m willing to bet there’s a more genuine reason behind this “constraint” when it comes to personalization.

I’m not sure what that reason is, but maybe it has something to do with the balance between personalization and context, with “context” meaning the content of the ad in relation to the content of the page it’s delivered on. Maybe it’s because personalization tech isn’t quite “there” yet. Maybe marketers like the idea of personalization but aren’t completely convinced for one reason or another.

Maybe I’m reading into this too much. Maybe it really is just a matter of time before we see mass personalization in all its oxymoronic glory.

One other interesting note from the report: Adobe found that marketers who automate the optimization of their ads see higher conversion rates (3.6% compared to 2.6%). That’s not a mind-blowing increase, but it does support the belief that automation can help marketers make better use of large data sets.

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