According to many in the digital advertising industry, at some point in the future digital marketing will be so targeted that consumers will want to see the ads. Advertising will tell us about the products we want to know about, give us a direct path to the content we need and provide access to discounts on products we want.
How will marketers do this? Data, of course. Information marketers can use to determine what you are interested in.
In order to serve things that are relevant to me, you need to know something about me. …one thing has been missing. That is having users have the opportunity to say this is what I’m interested in. ~Susan Wojcicki, Google (source)
But have you looked recently at the data online advertisers have about you? Despite the outrage over cookies, tracking and privacy, much of the data driving the industry to this future of highly relevant advertising looks like someone wearing a blindfold threw a few hundred darts at a board of potential audience segments.
You can browse through the information a number of companies have about you on BlueKai (now owned by Oracle). I did just that and this is what I found.
Does BlueKai Know Where I Live?
BlueKai has my location half-right. My location lists both Portland, Oregon (that’s correct) and Massachusetts (I moved to Oregon about 10 years ago and haven’t even visited Boston in years).
I’ll give BlueKai a free pass on the “Services” location, which doesn’t make any sense. Although it doesn’t inspire confidence in the data, it also isn’t a “location” anyone is likely to specify in a campaign.
Does BlueKai Know My Interests?
There are 15 screens to page through in my profile, the first eight screens are captured below. With categories like ‘self-improvement’ (umm, sure, I’d like to be better at something), I can’t disclaim every single one. But this doesn’t come close to accurately reflecting my interests or how I spend time or money.
I’m not looking at luxury cars (although if you have a deal on a ~10 year old 4×4 pickup I might be interested). I’m not dieting (not even close). Crafts, say what? We don’t have pets (or even want pets right now). I have no interest in personal international travel. I could go on, and on, and on.
If this data is going to be used to target ads to me, I won’t even recognize they are targeted!!
Does BlueKai Know the Things I Buy?
I’m not a big spender, so this section should be shorter (it is). However, I would still expect to see purchase information that at least makes sense if I did purchase more. But no.
Instead this section has a few generic items (like produce, spices and meat & seafood), but then it strikes out. Luxury autos? Leisure travel? Cruises? Women’s clothes? Home decor? Pet supplies? DSL service? No, No, NO!
Does BlueKai Know My Income or Age
Some of the companies that make their data available through BlueKai link off-line purchasing to your web activity. Others glean data from millions of sites in order to learn about you through your online activity. With access to all of that information, companies should be able to get close to my income and age.
Below are a series of screenshots with that include data on my income and age according to different data companies.
So using the magic of “big data,” marketers have guessed that our household income is somewhere between $20,000 and $250,000. A range that wide isn’t even accepted on the playground!
With Webbula, which according to BlueKai’s Little Blue Book provides accurate offline consumer data and verifies and authenticates data through a hygiene process, I’m 18-24, 25-34 and 45-54. Three tries, spanning nearly three decades, all from one provider. And they still didn’t get it right!
BlueKai’s Little Blue Book is a well-produced overview of each data provider, if you are interested you can access it here.
Does BlueKai Know What Brands I Buy?
BlueKai makes information from IRI available to marketers on about 100 consumer products I purchase, everything from yogurt brands to soap to coffee to salad dressing. According to BlueKai’s Little Blue Book, “IRI’s ProScores enables CPG and retail marketers to precisely target and directly communicate with their key consumers and shoppers at home, online or in-store.”
I’ll spare you the screenshots this time (there would be 20 of them), but unfortunately the data isn’t any better. Even stretching it, there were only 6 products out of about 100 that our family would consider occasionally purchasing. And if brands like Progresso, Rembrandt or Neutrogena Ultra Sheer target me as a key consumer or shopper, none of us will be happy about it.
No, this data will not allow marketers to deliver advertising that is relevant or interesting to me. If this is what the digital industry is counting on to take targeted advertising beyond retargeting, the future looks bleak indeed.
Companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google have access to additional information about many of us, information that can be used to target advertising. However, third-party data from companies like those selling through BlueKai continues to be a major way marketers buy advertising today.
I’ve watched my data through BlueKai over the last couple years and problems like these have been the norm. But that’s me. Take a look at your profile on BlueKai and let me know how accurate the information is about you in the comments below.