Targeting Online Advertising Responsibly

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Failed Online Ad Targeting

As an online advertising consultant I try to encourage a responsible approach to ad targeting. Nobody, myself included, likes to have irrelevant ads shoved into their Facebook or Twitter timelines. And yet there seems to be no shortage of advertisers who are willing to do just that.

Here are just a few reasons why it’s a bad idea:

  • It’s a waste of money, burning your budget on audience with no interest in your product or services.
  • You may in fact achieve the opposite of what you wanted with people ultimately disliking your brand.
  • It damages the advertising opportunity for everyone.
  • On sites like Facebook it may even generate complaints about you direct from your ad.
  • It demonstrates disrespect for your audience.

Some branding specialists will cry foul here since they often blast the market with a message, trying to reach as many eyeballs as possible. However online branding campaigns can be targeted too, so we all need to make the effort to zero in on our target audience.

An online example of a legitimate branding opportunity is the ‘masthead’ banner you see at the top of the homepage. Another example would be a homepage takeover campaign on a popular news website. In these examples users are unlikely to feel affronted by your ads as they seem proportional.

Respect your segments

Last month we finally gained full access to Twitter advertising here in Australia. Twitter offers a number of targeting options, some unique to Twitter, when advertisers create an ad campaign and I can see where the temptation to bombard the market may surface.

Personally I hate seeing ads in my Twitter feed unless they are about products or services I’m really interested in. Random messages from say a bank telling me to open an account with them annoys me no end. Conversely I will click on Twitter ads when they are highly relevant.

Just keep in mind that when someone is using Twitter their attention span and tolerance of distraction is probably as low as it will ever be. Tripping them up while in this mood may attract undue scorn.


If you still feel compelled to spend huge sums of money thrashing the public over the head with your fancy new slogan then by all means rent a billboard, the side of a bus or turn to print media. But please, if you advertise online be smart about it, even with display campaigns.

If we take the time to use the powerful targeting technologies offered by internet marketing channels it works out better for all of us.