Why Choice-Based Advertising Should Be MUCH Bigger Than It Is

The very second you start using the internet, your online-behavior is being tracked and used to present you tailored and customized advertisements. Affiliate links, banners, pop-ups showing you products that you might be interested in — they are all over the place. This is common practice — nothing new. However, there seems to be a way to make online-advertising much more efficient. It is about time for this practice to be used to its full potential: choice-based advertising.

The Flaws of Online-Targeting

No matter, how accurate targeting-technologies are becoming — there are still two enormous downsides to directly (re-)targeting users on the internet:

1) Privacy Issues: While analyzing users’ online habits to present them tailored advertising does not violate privacy laws per se, users often feel observed or spied on. This triggers a negative emotion that is likely to transfer to the ad-content and product.

2) Unavoidable Inaccuracy: People share computers. People look up and buy things for others. People satisfy their needs by making a purchase and thus might be less interested in a particular product now than they were a week ago. All these things blur a user’s online profile and are impossible to be fully processed by targeting-algorithms.

Let the User Choose

What better way is there to tailor ad content to a user than to simply ask him? Think about it: when you start using a free service online, the stakes are pretty high, that this service financially relies on showing you ads in order for it to be free of charge. You are fine with that. In the end, you want to use the service and if the form of payment is mere ad-exposure — so be it. Now: Would you rather have an algorithm crawl your browser history and halfway decently predict your interest or would you rather tell the system what you are actually interested in? I think I am not only speaking for myself as a consumer when I say: “If I am going to be confronted with ads anyway, I might as well pick something that somewhat interests me.”

And that is exactly why it works: Companies and advertising-agencies are desperately trying to obtain data through online-targeting technologies that, in my mind, users might be willing to give away deliberately.

In the end all parties benefit:

  • Users receive relevant information about products that might catch their interest (important reminder: no ads are not an option here. The options are: Relevant ads or irrelevant ads — pick your poison…)
  • Companies benefit from efficient targeting: narrow-targeted and accurate ad-placement leads to an increase in high-quality contacts

I also believe that the choice-based approach is not limited to video content. In fact, it could even be expanded to suit all instruments of online advertising.

Hulu does it

An example that shows how these possibilities can be utilized is set by the online video streaming service Hulu. Throughout the past years, Hulu has introduced plenty of innovative features that hand over the control to the user:

  • The Ad Selector lets the user chose an ad-category that seems most relevant to them prior to watching a video
  • Ad Swap provides the user the opportunity to tailor their ad experience in real-time by enabling them to instantly swap out of an ad
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