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Facebook helps to drive the future of advertising

Written by Gareth Jenkins on 10 Aug 09
Facebook helps to drive the future of advertising
The recent news about Facebook making big moves to push their tools out far and wide into the wider web beyond the site prompted me to blog about where advertising in general is heading.

The future of advertising lies in pushing the web’s style of personalized, targeted and trackable adverts into more traditional and generally effective advertising mediums.

Imagine 1 billion people watching the 2014 football world cup through their digital TV sets. The adverts come on and every single viewer gets a different personally targeted advert shown to them, potentially with special offers targeted at their location, interests, income levels etc.

This targeting follows on from them having been shown the same campaigns as personalised print adverts in their magazine subscriptions, and also through ads that appear when they’ve been using various apps on their mobile. 

At some point, the guy working as a Sales Director earning big bucks has clicked a Facebook “like” links against a few photos of Ferraris in various sites.  He then finds himself watching Top Gear on TV and in the advert break being personally offered a test drive of a new Ferrari, with details of his local test centre.

News stories and other pictures about the same great new Ferrari have been subtly pushed to him on various news and networking sites he’s been visiting that week as well. He may have even seen these ads/videos being displayed to him on video screens as he travels around the Underground on the way to work/play.  

Slick videos of these cars may even have been pushed out to his close friends to try and get them talking about it with him down the pub.  Is it likely that this guy might take the test drive?

Helping to lead towards this, the big news of late is Facebook’s new developments. Put simply, they’re trying to take on Google to be the company building/storing the most data about every individual web user on this planet. 

Putting occasional legal privacy challenges to one side for the moment, Google already knows the following about a very large percentage of the web's users:
  1. What pages any user has viewed (page impressions via their AdWords and Analytics tools) – very wide coverage as integrated into many, many sites on the web - building a list of pages viewed either against a user profile (if user has a Google account), or against an IP address if not.
  2. What types of searches a user makes, and what pages they then click on – if they use Google search of course.
  3. What types of services they sign up for, and indications of what their interests are, through the email they receive to their Gmail account.
  4. Starting to build up some social knowledge about users based on Gmail contacts lists, Youtube activity and GooglePlus
Facebook is taking a slightly different approach by trying to get their “Like” rating style system integrated throughout the web (see bottom of this blog post for an example). This is slightly different in that it’s not simply logging content that they have looked at, but that they have actually chosen to indicate a personal preference towards.

They also want to embed their social network tools throughout other sites by allowing any other site to pull in and make use of a Facebook user’s social network data – enabling for example a job site to allow a list of suggested friends that you may wish to pass a job offer onto, the friends displayed would be filtered to those working in a company within the same sector, or who live in the relevant location.

The potential power of personal, targeted advertising is immense.  Once targeting to the individual becomes a more achievable feat, advertisers can start to learn about the behavioural patterns and even past history of a user.  

Think about the data being stored about many consumers now - all your shopping habits via your Nectar/Tesco card, what content, videos and music you like via what you post to your Twitter/Facebook account and what songs you download, what you've been searching on online, what your career path is via your LinkedIn or other online CV profile.   

Combine data of this depth with the understanding that we are now getting into how the brain works, and how the subconscious brain can be both predicated and led (think of the Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques that Derren Brown and his ilk use a lot here), and you have an incredibly powerful system for leading many users towards a transaction they may not even be aware they're being led towards.

Depending on your viewpoint here, this could be seen as a scary vision of the future, or a huge opportunity for your business.  Of course, all of us are consumers, so you will inevitably end up a target as well as a user of these services, whether you like it or not.

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