Matching advertisement on consumer profiles

Several posts about new advertisement initiatives today. Saw a post here discussing the announcement of MySpace that they will start using user profiles to customise the adds you get to see. And Google is now turning widgets into adsense, leveraging the media plan as the message as John Battelle says it. Looking at the discussions at Boing Boing here people seem to be skeptical about the MySpace move.

The main problem with user profiles being matched to advertisement is twofold:

  1. Is the user profile representing the user in an accurate way. How many people do you know that fill out their profile with rubbish? Garbage in is garbage out.
  2. Although the initial idea might sound good, I cannot help but wonder if “past” events predict “future” needs accurate enough. To clarify this, an example. Lets say I happen to be a sports fan according to my profile on MySpace. Based upon that I might get to see advertisements from Nike, Adidas etc. But if I have already bought running shoes last week, these adds really don’t match my current needs right? I was in the mood to select a vacation, but hey, that wasn’t in my profile. There is probably a trade off here between branding and advertisement.

Is there an advertisement model possible that might actually benefit the user, instead of the social network or the advertiser? User profile matching or widgets turning into adds might be a start. But there is a thin line there. If the matching is not done accurately according to the user, he will be annoyed. Amazon has used different techniques to the aid of the book searcher. I find The “people who bought this book also bought…”functionality useful and fun. But mainly because I am searching for a book, in other words it has purpose when I choose to buy a new book. If the purpose isn’t there, the functionality isn’t useful to me.

Maybe we should give the user control over the adds. He is already putting great effort in creating and updating his profile on every social network he is in. Why not provide him with options to decide what type of advertisements he is in the mood for now? Or make it searchable (I want to see advertisements on ‘summer vacations” now)? Or suggest recommendations to him? Or allow him to get rid of advertisements all together (perhaps at a cost?). the network owner, e.g. MySpace wouldn’t like that. But, look at the upside. If a user willingly provide advertisers with directions, that would make them more valuable to the user and the advertiser right? In the end it should be about the value for the user, not the social network or advertiser. Any takes on this? What do you think about this, is there a way to make advertisements more interesting to the users?

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4 Responses to Matching advertisement on consumer profiles

  1. Pingback: A new corner in the future of advertising « Alexander van Elsas’s Weblog on new media & technologies and their effect on social behavior

  2. Just commented on your other post, then saw this one and couldn’t resist mouthing off yet again. Then I’ll read more and subscribe … good stuff.

    My background is in contextual/behavioral advertising and for the past 2 years I’ve been on a mission to directly couple user value to the act of deep profiling … to the extent that you even give users 100% control over their profile.

    The company able to pull this off accomplishes what you suggest. The advertising model is based on this profile data, which benefits the user. Yet it ALSO benefits the publisher and advertiser just as much, though the user is in control. That element of control is key.

    What we think/hope will work is to show users the *people* most relevant to their browsing, for example every time they search Google. shop online, read a blog post, etc. — not just the content. So we’re developing the Web’s first person-to-person contextual advertising platform. The value prop is two-fold: (1) see real people, online now and relevant to you, on whatever page you browse to, and be able to connect with them in real-time, and (2) promote yourself (your blog) to others when you’re relevant to them (based on what you browse and publish on the web).

    The more you allow us to profile you (implicitly), the better the connections we draw you to (and to you) and the less work you have to do managing your explicit profile.

  3. Alexander van Elsas says:

    Jordan, that is an interesting idea. Would love to see it work. There is always a trust issue though. Users might not like it when a service profiles them in too much detail. On the other hand, the application you suggest sounds very useful, and is definitely better than the usual ad bombardement. But also a comment on your comment above. In my opinion the user is always 100% in control of his profile, that’s why it is his profile. Taking that as a given for any service will benefit all in the end. Good luck with your service.

  4. We’ve got a good start going already — feel free to check it out (by following the link in my name). Company name is Others Online.

    You’re absolutely right that we bump up against serious trust issues if we don’t do it right, and I’d appreciate your feedback on how we’re doing so far. We basically show you the “auto-tags” we’re associating to your profile, and allow you block, delete or turn off auto-tagging altogether.

    And by profile, I was referring to a user profile that someone else creates, not what users create — I’m referring to how all online media companies are profiling each of us, and we actually have no visibility to, nor control over that profile. We’re doing the same thing, but providing full transparency.

    I suspect if Google showed the public all the information they have on each of us, it would completely freak us and potentially ruin them. Musn’t frighten the bunnies!

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