I recently shared a great article by Street Fight on how there are a lot of myths surrounding location data technology: Four Targeting Myths That Devalue the Real Power of Location Data by Jake Moskowitz published by Street Fight.
Some of the myths that he mentioned I’ve also heard from my clients- like the one where you can geofence a restaurant drive thru without geofencing the restaurant- can’t be done.
It got me thinking about the other myths I’ve heard about digital advertising that need to be debunked.
Myth #1: I can target high income left handed golfers who own a dog and live in this zip code.
Reality: This myth is all about piling on too many layers of targeting and the misconception that the internet knows everything about everyone. I have clients that want to get very specific with their targeting and I am often explaining that less is more when it comes to targeting.
Yes, the internet keeps a ton of data about demographics and behaviors, but over targeting an ad campaign is never a good idea. The more layers of targeting you add, the smaller your audience pool, making it difficult for your campaign to scale and you end up missing out on potential customers. Like all advertising, online campaigns need reach and frequency, so you need a fairly large pool to be able to optimize for campaign success. Plus, layering on targeting increases your rate, so it’s better to cast a wider net at a lower CPM.
I realize the appeal of targeting is to drill down to exactly your likely potential customer and minimize waste, but the internet actually doesn’t know everything about everyone all the time. Targeting segments are mainly based on a user’s recent internet patterns. While you can find dog owners, left handers, and golfers, trying to find people who are all of these is quite difficult, especially when you are also targeting geography and layering demographics, which make the pool of potential audience even smaller. This is a silly and extreme example. The point is, the campaign needs to find enough people to scale.
The best thing to do is choose which behavior is most important to your business and go with that. And if you need to do two behaviors, make it an OR statement, which will target all golfers as well as all dog owners. Just because the internet recognizes that the user is a golfer, doesn’t mean they don’t have a dog. It just means the internet doesn’t know it right now because their current online patterns haven’t shown it. Adding household income requirements just adds another layer of targeting. You can assume a user’s income based on your target zip code and their expensive hobbies.
Myth #2 Your AI devices are listening to you.
Reality: It’s true!! Well, not really in the way we think. The answer is yes and no.
This is one that sometimes even I want to believe. Just the other day, I saw an ad for Whole Foods minutes after I was talking to a friend about it. I made a joke that “they” were listening in on our phone conversation.
Here’s the truth about when your device is listening. Your AI devices in your home and your phone are always listening for you to say the trigger phrase that activates the device to respond to your command. This would be “Hey Siri”, “Okay Google”, or “Alexa”. Once activated, the device is listening and processes your command within the device. Occasionally your command is saved and stored by the device companies on a cloud. They use these recordings to track command patterns and improve the devices’ capabilities (ABC News, 2019). Amazon is very open about this and Google has also explained how their triggers work.
However, your phone and home appliance are not listening to normal chit chat or phone conversations. There has been speculation that the Facebook app has thousands of secret trigger words that it uses to collect data, but it’s not true and researchers have disproved it. It’s also not realistic as it would be too much data and too expensive. (Android Authority, 2018)
Facebook is not listening to your conversation at the bar and Amazon is not serving you an ad because you said a product name out loud.
So what is going on here? It’s all psychological.
We are served hundreds of ads a day. Some relevant, some not. Advertisers are taking a gamble that throughout their campaign their ad will become relevant to you at some point during their flight. They are already targeting you based on demo and behaviors, so chances are at some point the ad will be relevant to you.
When we are served ads that we don’t need at that moment, we don’t notice it and forget we saw it. But most likely, you’ve been served the ad before and maybe a few times. But it left your consciousness shortly after because it wasn’t top of mind. But now that you’ve talked about it, you are paying attention and what was irrelevant and invisible to you before is now very relevant getting your attention.
After I saw the Whole Foods ad, I wanted to believe they were listening. But after I took a step back from that conspiracy theory, I realized it was in my head. I am an Amazon Prime member who reads articles about healthy eating, who lives less than a mile from a Whole Foods. I probably was served the ad a few times before. It was my brain that suddenly saw it there. And this is how digital advertising works so well.
Come back for Part 2 for myths related to your ad campaign success: Myth #3: Banner ads don’t work. I’ll never see an ROI; Myth #4: Digital ads are only for large companies.
Triggs, Robert. (2018). No, your phone is not always listening to you. Android Authority, (https://www.androidauthority.com/your-phone-is-not-listening-to-you-884028/)
Alexa is always listening- And so are Amazon Workers. (2019). ABC News, (https://wtop.com/tech/2019/04/alexa-is-always-listening-and-so-are-amazon-workers/)
Art: SOMFL. (2018) Instagram, (https://www.instagram.com/p/Bea2AnLhrVd/)