Behavioral: 'It's Only Going To Get Creepier'

SAN FRANCISCO -- Today's behavioral marketing is just a taste of what's to come, according to David Martin, the director of interactive media for Ignited, who predicted "It's only going to get creepier" during the OMMA Behavioral conference on Monday. But Martin and his fellow panelists also agreed that behavioral marketers will also move to moderate the discipline in ways that protect privacy.

Starting with the dramatic predictions, Martin opined that "Minority Report isn't so far away," including the delivery of behaviorally targeted advertising in public places. "Digital and addressable media will go from just your PC to your living room, your kids at school, in your car, at work." Martin predicted this would essentially mean a coordination of behavioral targeting, mobile distribution and place-based video or interactive digital displays.

According to other mobile analysts, the possible means of mobile distribution include cell phones and radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips embedded in credit cards. Beginning January 2007, Cooper Mini staged a promotion in San Francisco where electronic billboards detected and responded to RFID chips embedded in the key fobs of Cooper Mini owners, producing customized, individual messages along Bay Area highways.



But OMMA panelists agreed this kind of messaging could well lead to consumer backlash if it went too far, and generally endorsed a conservative approach to behavioral marketing. Above all, they agreed that marketers should voluntarily limit their sources of data, to avoid alienating consumers who are concerned about issues of privacy.

Eddie Smith, the vice president of marketing and business development for social media networks, reminded the audience that consumers make the decision to share information about themselves in a limited online setting--for example, their music preferences on a social network like Facebook or MySpace. "They shared that information when they were in that walled garden (a social network) with the expectation it would only be used there, and if it looks like it is being used somewhere else," the marketer risks a serious negative backlash, Smith said.

Of course, the true value of behavioral marketing lies in tracking consumers across multiple sites, but this must be done subtly, according to Dorion Carroll, the vice president of engineering for "Our job is basically to tease them into opting into an experience without crossing the line." But when the consumer opts out, the rules are clear, the panelists agreed. Martin summed it up: "We need to be responsible enough to know that when someone says no, we back out."

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