Opinion Column

THE DUEL

Targeted ads reflect people's needs 0

Brent Stafford

By Brent Stafford, The Duel

Ads follow people everywhere. (FILE PHOTO)

Ads follow people everywhere. (FILE PHOTO)

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The marketing business has an old saying, half of every advertising dollar spent is wasted — the problem is you don’t know which half. When you consider Canadian companies spend tens of billions of dollars each year to reach consumers, that is a lot of money wasted. This waste is a result of inefficient targeting.

Advertising provides consumers with vital information in order to make purchasing decisions. Without it, every purchase would require labourious research — costing consumers time and money. Advertising is essential to our economy. Behind every ad is a product or service, and the company and its employees who provide it. Without advertising to support these businesses, Canadians would be out of work and the economy could grind to a halt.

Advertising also supports the production and distribution of content — news, information and entertainment — which consumers are often loathe to pay for directly. Without advertising, the variety and quantity of content would be drastically reduced and, of course, this column and newspaper would not exist.

The importance of advertising is not to be dismissed, nor paid lip service as my Duel colleague has done this week. It is the “annoying” ads that Laila laments which targeted online ads are designed to replace. Ads are annoying when they are irrelevant to our needs and desires, and we all pay when advertising dollars are wasted, as marketing costs are built into the price.

The two-way communication of the Internet enables the efficient targeting of more relevant ads. Behaviourally targeted ads are delivered based on a consumer’s web-browsing and search behaviour over time and across multiple domains. In most cases, the data behavioural advertising companies collect is not tied to personal information — name, address and phone number. A random ID is assigned via a cookie on your browser, which enables the data profile to be built and used to deliver you more relevant ads. You can delete these cookies at any time by emptying your browser’s cache or opt-out of participating company programs by visiting youradchoices.ca.

Read Laila Yuile's column here

I personally have no problem with targeted online ads. They better reflect my needs and interests and I do find myself clicking through more often. Sure, it can be startling to see an ad on one website, based on my previous web browsing. I’m just thankful I no longer see ads for feminine hygiene products. Clearly, that is a waste of advertising dollars.

Brent Stafford is a veteran television news-documentary producer and marketing specialist. You can watch his show at ShakyPolitics.com

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