Thursday, 5 July 2007

Yahoo SmartAds - A Privacy Concern?

This week, Yahoo announced the release of its SmartAds system - ads that will tailor their delivery, both timing and appearance, to users depending on certain demographic and behavioural factors. The ads will be tailored to each unique web surfer depending on age, sex, occupation, geography, search history and other factors.

Already there have been complaints about SmartAds potential impact on our privacy. They say Yahoo will know too much about us, and that they'll somehow take advantage of this by, I don't know, "selling us stuff we don't need". I personally find this a little insulting, as I feel we as adults can make up our own minds about what we buy - a persuasive ad isn't going to force us to do anything.

Besides, aren't SmartAds just an extension of what MSN are already doing with their demographic targeting in AdCenter? Well, yes. MSN uses information such as age, sex and location to profile its searchers, and allows advertisers on AdCenter to tap into this info and better target their ads (e.g. only target searchers of a certain sex or age). SmartAds are a slight enhancement on this - particularly their "on the fly" ad creation - but it's certainly not a quantum leap. Yet there wasn't half as much dissention about MSN's targeting revelation - in fact, it was largely welcomed as a great potential aid to advertisers.

So why isn't SmartAds being received in the same way? Perhaps because image ads are involved? Perhaps because Yahoo drives greater volume? Perhaps because everyone's scared of Bill Gates? No - I think it's because certain people don't care for Yahoo. Particularly Google people. Catch my drift? Perhaps I've been reading too many conspiracy theories...!

I personally welcome any innovation in advertising. If it gives the consumer more relevant messages, more likely to meet their needs and desires, then it's fine by me.

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