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Google's interest-based user targeting to improve advertising impact: Experts

Google's interest-based user targeting to improve advertising impact: Experts (AP)Premium
Google's interest-based user targeting to improve advertising impact: Experts (AP)

  • On Wednesday, the search giant said it will start testing user targeting based on their interest and browsing behaviour ensuring not only user privacy but also showing relevant advertisements.
  • The decision comes right in the middle of an ongoing user privacy debate triggered by multiple events

Internet users will get rid of the pesky brand ads that follow them from one site to another thanks to Google’s decision to stop tracking individual users based on their email addresses. The advertising technique where a company follows a user on multiple digital platforms is called retargeting. It entails showing them ads if they have visited their brand’s website but haven’t made any purchase.

On Wednesday, the search giant, which relies heavily on digital advertising using user data, said it will start testing user targeting based on their interest and browsing behaviour ensuring not only user privacy but also showing relevant advertisements.

Google’s decision comes right in the middle of an ongoing user privacy debate triggered by multiple events such as Cambridge Analytica scandal, WhatsApp data sharing update and an overall awareness fuelled by privacy friendly legislation like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This has also impacted digital advertising where users are asking tough questions around their personal information being used by platforms for commercial interests.

“Since “adtech" literacy is extremely low, people are not able to crystallise their demands beyond “we do not want creepy ads to follow us," said a digital marketing executive on the condition of anonymity.

Smita Salgaonkar, country manager India at data and digital media consultancy MightyHive said that digitally mature advertisers are already thinking about how to talk to clusters of customers that behave alike instead of using a laser pointer to single out each customer. MightyHive is a wholly owned subsidiary of Martin Sorell’s S4 Capital.

“There may be a short-term, temporary decampment to ID enriched ad environments for advertisers that insist on knowing their prospects beforehand. But eventually, advertisers will realise that moving from targeting precision to context-led engagement prediction is a more profitable long-term strategy," she added.

Experts said the development may bring the context back to digital advertising which has been obsessing over data and high returns at the cost of user privacy. Deploying ads in the right environment at the right place is becoming a priority for platforms like Google which will lead to higher returns on media spends and sale conversions. For instance, an ecommerce company will only place an ad on a fashion website for customers who have shown interest to buy its product.

“..we are yet to understand how the various identity resolution technologies (that Google talks about) and media will work together. Having said that, with such developments ‘context’ in media planning might be coming back as well," said Unny Radhakrishnan as chief executive of its digital agency Digitas India.

Meanwhile, this decision is not expected to have a significant impact on Google’s ad revenue which is also the largest contributor in India’s 17, 000 crore strong digital advertising market.

“Barely 10 to 20% of digital spends go towards third party cookie backed advertising," said Shradha Agarwal, strategy head and COO, Grapes Digital, an integrated communications agency. “Marketers that are using performance marketing to target the same user multiple times will get bothered by this decision. It will have no impact on brands that are building awareness, and consideration through digital advertising."

(Shuchi Bansal contributed to this story)


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