The great strength – and biggest weakness – of cookie-fueled ad targeting is that demand side ad platforms don’t know when to give up. Informed by cookies that can track our browsing habits and especially activity on ecommerce sites, these ads follow us around the web like an overreaching salesperson with infinite time (and, arguably, no shame). If there’s a product you looked at days ago – and maybe even put in your shopping cart or bought – these ads will continue to appear on websites you visit. They ask, “Do you want to buy this now? Well, how about now?” If you’re still interested then the persistence is admirable; if not, it’s obnoxious.
This is all cookie-based ads are able to do. They only know if an ad is clicked on and if you made a purchase – and most times not even that. It’s not unusual to see an ad for something you just bought. They have no capacity for nuanced feedback, nor an understanding for how users feel about the ad on their screen, nor the ability to take no for an answer. Advertisers will set these ads to stop displaying after a certain number of views, but only after it’s clear that the ad never resonated with that user in the first place.
Due in large part to this disconnect, the ad empire based on cookies is slowly crumbling. In a digital landscape where we are rapidly adopting ad blockers and browsers that filter ads – as well as shifting en masse to mobile platforms where cookies are often disallowed. It’s clear that society is becoming less tolerant and consumer tolerance of invasive online advertising has spurred a desire for a more mature arbitrage between brands and consumer.
With our tastes evolving and cookie-based ad methods going stale, consumer appetites are ready for a more mature form of interactive ads that function less like a blowhorn and more like a professional conversation. As a trend, Google, Facebook and others are now pursuing opinion-based targeting: advertising techniques that solicit our opinions and invite active participation in order to provide a more rewarding experience.
These techniques can include polling, quick surveys, and the ability to approve or disapprove of ads with a click. This encourages us to have a say in what ad experiences we are interested in and willing to engage with. By empowering us with more control over the content we are served, we will – the hope is – find greater value in ads that are relevant and helpful. However, without adequate consumer reward for such data-exchange participation will remain very low. Advertisers that gain an ability to deliver more effective ads to more targeted and receptive audiences will surely benefit. While cookies have become exposed as an outdated and ineffective means of targeting online consumers with specific content they’ll respond to, opinion-based targeting provides rich feedback that quells user frustration and achieves a mutually beneficial solution for all involved.
Ad publishers have long struggled to find the correct balance between the optimizing ad performance and the quality of the user experience they offer. Until now, this balancing act has been defined by determining the quantity of ads users can be subjected to before they become too annoying. Opinion-based targeting gives us a meaningful say in what we see and increases the likelihood that we’ll find ad content interesting and enjoyable – making it much easier for advertisers to achieve a happy medium.
Also Read: From Cookies to Ad IDs, Why Email Is Key