Will the demolition of DoubleClick boundaries intrude on personal territory?

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Google’s announcement (well, more of a mumbled statement) that the wall between DoubleClick and other data sources has been demolished, has caused debate among the tech-savvy public.

Paul Risebury-Crisp, NMPi account director

Yet, digital marketers are looking at it in a different light because this change increases the amount and variety of data that can be used to target individuals. There now exists the possibility that users could be targeted with ads individually attuned to their personal information, fully tracked as a single identifiable entity from sources such as search history, sites visited, information in Gmail, and so much more. All this information will come together to form a complete picture of an individual right down to name and address data.

However, as marketing tactics go, there is a fine line between effective and creepy. An ad that reminds me of those trainers I added to my basket but didn’t purchase is one thing, but an add saying “Paul, please come and finish buying these trainers” might be a step too far.

For paid search, there are still rules that will not allow advertisers to target audiences smaller than 1,000 users, and if this stays in place we’re unlikely to see search ads getting much more personal – but what about bid multipliers?

We can already overlay multipliers on bids depending on location, device and audience information, but imagine if we can overlay richer data, such as household income, political leanings and environmental awareness – anything that can be inferred from website usage. If the data is accessible there’s no reason why this couldn’t be the next big step for AdWords.

Facebook already combines all the data from its users across the internet and in any instance where a Facebook button is shown. Anybody who has ever put a Facebook ad campaign together knows the targeting options are vast – almost overwhelming – but there still exists the criteria that “micro-audiences” aren’t allowed, so it never gets to the point of being a one-on-one message.

Imagine having this range of targeting options through Google – or even via DoubleClick – combined over search and display. Coordinating your messaging across channels, combined with sequential messaging techniques, has the potential to influence and drive conversions – or we could see public backlash for the intrusion into privacy.

This would necessitate much more nuanced targeting strategies, meaning brands and agencies need to be more familiar with not just the data they collect, but who their user-base actually is in order to speak to them in a meaningful way. The messaging and language here would be key – engaging but not intrusive, and certainly not over-familiar.

Undoubtedly, the volume and variety of data that could be rendered in search or display ads will lead to at least elements of dynamic ad content being the norm. How we think about ad copy will be forced to adapt to this.

For years now, thanks to personalisation capabilities, website and email content has been about creating one-to-one experiences using stitched-together personal data. This concept could become the norm for how users accept being targeted online. The big question is will they accept it?

At a time when use of ad-blockers is becoming more widespread, an increase in targeted personalised messaging could make people more accepting of online advertising. However, it could also have the opposite effect and be the final straw that turns ad-blocker usage into the norm, essentially blocking the main mechanism for funding the internet.

Paul Risebury-Crisp is account director at digital agency NMPi.

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