Finding that Mobile Advertising Sweet Spot: The Tricky Game of Effectively Reaching Customers

by Jeff Wiener on June 19, 2015

For many I would guess that mobile advertisements are, for the most part, an annoyance; something you need to click around to actually get to the content you’re looking for. The problem with advertising, at least for now, is that companies need to take a carpet bomb approach to reaching the actual set of eyeballs (connected to an actual person of course) that wants to see what they have to offer; a process that is inexact, intrusive, and again, very annoying.

What tech companies like Google (who depends almost solely on advertising revenue) and advertisers alike are continually looking for is a more streamlined, focused process, one that would be able to deliver user specific, contextually appropriate advertising that users would find helpful, making them more likely to actually engage with the advertising and buy the product.

The problem with such advertising technology is that it requires copious amounts of user data, and once collected, it requires that companies know how to use it in an effective manner. So far it seems companies have the data collection down, but given their misuse and mismanagement of our personal data what we often get is not that contextually perfect advertisement that drops in our lap at exactly the right moment, but instead “creepy marketing” that reminds us that we’re being watched, tracked, and recorded, and instead of making us interested in the product, usually makes us more likely to run the other way.

As I’ve said before, the future of smart technology will require a certain amount of information about us in order to function the way we want it too. How else will our smart houses, or smartphones, or smart clothes know our preferences and meet our needs unless we’ve allowed such technological applications to learn about them? Simply put, the future will require we rethink privacy, and that includes the future of advertising.

But even if our devices are serving as enslaved collectors of our personal information, sending data back to their tech overloads to be processed and compiled into a profile of our habits and interests, the trick is for companies to respect user privacy and employ discretion amidst the necessary data collection, gleaning only what is necessary and doing it in a way that leaves the user feeling protected and respected.

I likely don’t need to tell you that the advertising experience we often get now is something quite different. As Disruptive Views Alex Leslie writes, “Buy or click on something and an advert for that product follows you round like a salesman selling carved wooden elephants. When you have already bought one.” In fact, seeing advertisements for products or services you may have recently searched is an unsettling reminder that sites like Facebook and Google track and share you browsing information, it’s the sort of creepy marketing that alienates instead of engages.

As government regulators continue to attempt to reign in data collection practices and as consumers slowly learn to regulate and protect their own data, the challenge for the mobile advertising industry will be to convince the public that it actually provides a useful service, something intuitive and insightful that helps users find what they’re looking for.

While for some the thought of targeted advertising may seem like an unwarranted intrusion on our personal privacy, I can’t help but think it’s nonetheless better than what companies are offering now, an intrusive and creepy approach to marketing that often makes me feel like someone is looking over my shoulder.

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