ZDNet – “MS to advertisers: Drop dead” – a bit of an exaggeration but a point well made

OK, ZDNet’s contributor  uses a sensational headline to make his point with a back-handed compliment to Microsoft, but it is still a point worth making for the Advertising Industry. Namely that behavioral advertising faces a moment of truth; opt-in or opt-out.

And there is an irony in Microsoft being the good guy for once advocating for more privacy. One has to wonder if this would be the case if Google wasn’t handing them Bing’s head on a platter in search and advertising domination. And yet here we are with IE 10 locking things down by default for the humble user regarding tracking adverts.

I for one vote for opt-in. For example, in a discussion with a colleague earlier today, behavioral ads on FB are wrong (as in they deliver stupid ads) unless you tell it what you want. That should not be license to display dating-ads to users with profiles clearly marked “married” until we mark them “offensive” over and over and over. (For the record, that doesn’t work. You have to tell FB what you DO like to make offensive ads drop off.) I find this strategy akin to the gray-blocky-face on Flickr that is designed to get you to upload a real photo. It works, but it’s kinda annoying.

But back to the point. ZDNet’s post is sensationalizing a point that in my opinion is a good thing. Specifically that “the next version of (Microsoft’s) web browser, Internet Explorer 10, will ship with its “Do Not Track” feature turned on by default.”

The Author goes on to say:

“In practice, all behavioral advertising has managed to do is annoy the hell out of me…on a personal level. It is a much deeper level of rejection than seeing a billboard I disagree with on the highway, because I know there’s an attempt being made that’s failing. But I don’t have the time or energy to swat all of these new digital mosquitos. As a gatekeeper to the web, Microsoft is taking a step to do that for me — and all the average web-using people who have no idea what’s going on and couldn’t tell you the name of the current U.S. vice president, much less what a cookie is.”

The good news is that he concludes:

“…sometimes I just want an ice-cold can of Coca-Cola, and it has nothing to do with how old I am or where I live or who I work for. (But maybe, just maybe, how deathly hot outside it is right now.)

Good behavioral advertising can accomplish that. But too often, it hasn’t.”

Emphasis added by me.

To my friends in the advertising industry, an industry that is very close to my heart having been on the board of the local Houston Advertising Federation in the past, that it’s gonna be OK. We don’t have to be creepy to succeed. We just have to be creative. And yes, perhaps, fix our business models a bit to match the new nirvana.