Online ads get up close, and personal

Personalised content is the buzzword in advertising targets, but are advertisers striking the balance between being attractive and discreet, subtle and specific?

e4m by Ankur Singh
Updated: Aug 29, 2014 8:17 AM
Online ads get up close, and personal

Thanks to the booming online market, personalised content has of late become the buzzword in advertising targets. Research by several international business schools has shown that customers want ads that strike a chord with them, anticipate their needs and time the offering in sync with their plans, without being intrusive or ill-timed. 

Other than some text ads that show up alongside your search results — which have truly revolutionised the ad business — most commercials you see online don’t seem to know much about your buying habits or who you are. The challenge for advertisers, therefore, lies in reading the consumer well, and time and place the ads accordingly.   

Missing the point

The past decade has seen brands such as Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Apple, Google, and LinkedIn set benchmarks for personalised content, products and services. However, as more brands try to adapt to the changing market matrix, they end up looking at short-cuts to reach out to consumers in the name of personalisation. More often than not, online pop-up ads are irrelevant to the consumer — either by being repetitive, or by being completely out of context.

To this, Kulmeet Bawa, Director Enterprise, South Asia, Adobe, said, “The secret is in right targeting and personalisation. If it's done well, it should be relevant, valuable, and promote a relationship between the brand and the consumer. It’s the perfect mix between art and science.”
Bawa cites an example. “It is irritating for me as a consumer to return home to Delhi from a trip to Kashmir, only to be served an advertisement of a flight promotion between Delhi and Kashmir, or offers on Kashmiri hotels, right after I have finished my vacation. Marketers and their systems should be smart to understand the dates of my travel and should not serve me the ad when my travel is already done.”

In order to avoid a waste of the advertiser's money and resources, the ads should track the consumer smartly – offer broad tips on the destination while the destination is being searched and offer specific tips of hotels and services right after tickets are booked. TripAdvisor, for instance, keeps a tab on a subscriber's destination searches on Google or ticketing platforms and suggests hotel deals within minutes.

Capturing consumer interest

According to Gautam Talwar, Chief Strategy Officer, Rediffusion Y&R, “The reason why there is irritation and the tendency to hit the skip button is that most advertisers do not understand the media consumption habit on this medium.”

The idea is to engage the user. “I am searching for something, or I am positing or sharing on the medium… I am not passively consuming, and hence, all digital campaigns must result in some very high active engagement and action that is required of the consumer.”

In 2013, Reebok kicked off a global marketing campaign called 'Live With Fire' about the more holistic benefits of exercise. The effort – comprising TV, print, digital and out-of-home media as well as consumer events and activations – focuses on people who have made major lifestyle changes by getting off the couch and being active with others. The 360-degree campaign extended its core training and running focus to yoga and dance, partly to appeal more to women. The brand's digital campaign was primarily driven by personalised consumer needs, and even included an online flash fitness mob and a downloadable app. Through this campaign, all viewed the ad, and registered to the website received daily personalised calls/messages from actress Nargis Fakhri with their daily fitness plan.

“With ‘Live With Fire,’ Reebok has broadened this message by issuing an invitation to people to pursue their passions and to live life in a way that will inspire others to follow. The ‘fitness brand’ concept attracts interest. Our entire digital campaign is centered on personalisation of content,” said Kanika Mittal, Head – Digital Marketing and Brand Communications at Reebok India.

Similarly, Asian Paints recently launched an ad campaign for the android app to choose customised colour schemes for its customers’ homes. Dulux Paints also launched a similar app a few months back.

Targeting loyalty

Shreya Shivangi, Head, Digital Marketing at LG India, said, “Getting ad personalisation right does not just influence short-term performance. It can improve brand perception and life-time customer value too. Marketers should be using their data to deliver a positive customer experience and improved business performance rather than just storing it. In the next decade, the businesses that use their customer data in the smartest way will be the ones that win.”

According to a 2012 report in the Forbes magazine, most people (an overwhelming 75 per cent) in the US found personalised ads to be an invasion of privacy as they do not want their online behaviour to be tracked and the information used for commercial purposes. But these days, there also remains a huge potential to be tapped and consumers actually expect brands to understand their needs and personalise their customer experience in a smart, specific communication. 

Marketers keen to reach out and engage with the target audience need their ad providers to deliver campaigns that fit in perfectly with their consumer's digital footprints.

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