Tracking is Good

When I drive around in my car listening to the radio, I find
the ads annoying. Unless they are about
something I care about. Then I listen
intently.

When I watch TV, I experience the same thing. For the most part, I fast forward through the
ads on the Tivo. But if it’s an ad for
something I care about, I slow down the Tivo and watch the ad.

The same is true with email. I hit the delete button pretty quickly for most email marketing
messages. But if an email comes in with
information about something that matters to me, I read it carefully.

Advertising is content when its relevant and its an annoyance when its not.

Walt Mossberg started a recent column this comment:

Suppose you bought a TV set that included a component
to track what you watched, and then reported that data back to a
company that used or sold it for advertising purposes. Only nobody told
you the tracking technology was there or asked your permission to use
it.

You would likely be outraged at this violation of privacy.

To the contrary, I’d be overjoyed. Because tracking consumer
behavior is the best way to deliver relevancy. And I want relevancy in my advertising. Badly.

I am not suggesting that the tracking should be done without
my consent and awareness, but honestly I’d prefer that over no tracking if it
means that I’d get some relevancy in the ads that come my way.

Unfortunately, the first attempts at tracking consumer
behavior on the Internet were made by companies that messed with our
computers. They threw ads at us in new
browser windows (pop-ups and pop-unders). They put executable software on our computers that slowed them down and
in extreme cases made them unusable. And so the process of tracking consumer
behavior has unfortunately been married with the term “spyware” in the minds of
many consumers.

But the bad guys are getting shut down and/or coming clean and the good guys are
starting to embrace behavioral tracking as a way to target advertising. But these efforts by the good guys are
getting slammed by privacy advocates trying to establish tracking as something that
is bad.

That is something that needs to change.  Because if we are
ever going to get more relevancy in our advertising systems, something I crave
and I suspect most people crave, then we need to allow tracking to flourish.

Obviously we need rules about what is acceptable and what is
not.

Does anyone get upset when Amazon makes recommendations
based on past purchase behavior? I think
not. My guess is most people love that.

Does anyone get upset when you get ads from Google that
match the search term you just typed in? I think not.

Does anyone get upset when the NY Times runs travel ads at
you on the front page when you’ve recently visited their travel section? I
doubt it.

These are all examples of using consumer behavior to provide
relevancy in advertising.

It’s the future of advertising and it’s great for everyone.

Marketers love it because it makes their ad spend more
efficient.

Publishers love it because it monetizes their pages better.

And consumers love it because the ads become content instead
of noise.

Signal over noise. That’s what we all want. And
tracking is the way to get it.

So track my behavior please.

Disclosure:
Union Square Ventures and Flatiron Partners have
investments in a number of digital marketing services companies that use
various techniques to increase the relevancy of advertising. And we hope to invest in more over time. We are big believers in the power of targeted
advertising and are putting our money where our mouth is.