Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

Today, I wanted to highlight and echo some recent commentary from two very smart online ad veterans, Dave Morgan and Doug Weaver.

Their thesis in a nutshell is that the online advertising ecosystem has pursued an arms race of targeting upon targeting to the point that it has confused brand marketers and backed itself into a DR-only corner.  When it comes to hyper-targeting, as Dave Morgan put it, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

I completely agree and would encourage readers to visit the linked articles – there’s a lot more there to think about.

The market’s apparent addiction to overtargeting is especially puzzling given the performance data.  I have obviously written on this topic myself quite extensively over the years and just last week a new piece of research came out of MIT, with yet more evidence for the prosecution.

The MIT study, using data from agency giant Havas, found that highly personalized creative underperformed generic creative except for users who were already well down the funnel.  I understand that creative (this study) is different than media targeting (commentary above), but the two are opposite sides of the same coin and this result is another point on the same line; i.e., overtargeting is just that.

Or, as MIT researcher Catherine Tucker put it, “just because you have the data to personalize, it doesn’t mean you always should”.

About Andy Atherton
I am currently an SVP at AppNexus. I previously spent four years as COO and cofounder of Brand.net, a pioneer in programmatic reserve technology and leading digital media buying solution for top brands. Prior to Brand.net, I was Vice President of Pricing and Yield Management for Yahoo!, responsible for maximizing monetization of a global portfolio of display inventory worth $2B annually. Beginning in 2002, I created, developed and globalized Yahoo’s PYM function over a period of five years. Prior to Yahoo!, I was president and cofounder of Optivo, a venture-backed start-up that developed price optimization software for e-commerce retailers. More on LinkedIn...

2 Responses to Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

  1. Angela says:

    Hi Andy, that MIT research link appears to be broken and I’m having trouble finding it otherwise. Would you be able to resupply the link please? Thanks.

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