Sunday, October 30, 2005

Google wants to change advertising

In the New York Times today, Saul Hansell writes that "Google Wants to Dominate Madison Avenue".

Some selected excerpts:
Eric Schmidt ... [says] that advertising should be interesting, relevant and useful to users. "Improving ad quality improves Google's revenue ... If we target the right ad to the right person at the right time and they click it, we win."

This proposition, he continued, is applicable to other media. "If we can figure out a way to improve the quality of ads on television with ads that have real value for end-users, we should do it," he said. While he is watching television, for example, "Why do I see women's clothing ads?" he said. "Why don't I see just men's clothing ads?"

[Google] says it has not connected the vast dossier of interests and behavior to specific users .... For now, the only personal information Google says it considers is the user's location.
Advertising is content; it is information about products and services. Advertising should be useful and interesting, not annoying and irrelevant.

Personalized advertising, targeted to individual interests, will be a big step forward. If we can get to the point where advertisements are helpful and relevant, telling readers about products and services they actually want to know about, people will stop ignoring ads.

Update: John Battelle has a similar article in the SJ Mercury News on personalization and personalized advertising:
You've seen the ads along the right side and top of Google -- they are usually extremely relevant to the term you typed into the search box. Why are they so good? Because Google watches what you type and tries to match ads to your stated intent.

But what if Google and others knew what you had searched for before, or other sites you had been to, or other purchases you made? Now that's custom advertising.

Imagine that the relevance of the ads, or other services offered to you, is based not just on your keywords in your searches, but also the content of your e-mail, or the knowledge of where you've been recently on the Internet, what you have done, and what you found worth your time?

Google and Yahoo are already working on these services, with the goal of being able to customize more and more to the individual, or at least to demographic or behavioral clusters of similar individuals.
Right now, advertising is annoying. It is irrelevant and useless. If I don't have a cat, I'm not interested in an ad for cat food. It doesn't matter how obnoxious you make the ad using popups, flash, or whatever annoyances you can conjure up. I'm not interested.

If you're going to have to show me advertising, at least show me something I might like. You know who I am. Don't waste my time. Show me something useful.


Tejaswi said...

Personalized on what? "Untargetted" Advertisements are one way of exploring what's in the market. Its brand building. If every ad I ever saw was targetting specifically to my tastes, how would I know whats out there for my lady friend? or my grandmother? or my sport-enthusiast friend?

I think this personalization business needs to be thought about from a "life" point of view as well.

Greg Linden said...

Hi, Tejaswi. It's a good point. Pigeonholing is a common criticism raised about personalization.

However, in well designed systems, it is avoid by not limiting to narrowly defined interests and by supplementing the selections with some experiments that are intended to learn about new interests.

The point of personalization, after all, is to aid discovery, to help people find stuff they probably wouldn't find on their own. Personalization should help focus people's attention on interesting parts of the catalog, but personalization should always be about helping people discover new things.

Neil said...


Stumbled across your blog via Really interesting stuff so far.

I love the idea of personalized advertising, but it seems like it could get a little creepy once it crosses the line from the internet to the "real world."

The first time I turn on my television and all the commercials are for frozen burritos, science fiction novels, and Cameron Diaz films, I'm checking the house for hidden cameras. :)

Seriously, though, any company that wants to track me to personalize the ads will have to go to great lengths to prove that I can trust them with my info. I don't want just anybody knowing what kind of fabric softener I buy...

Greg Linden said...

That's a great point, Neil. On Findory, we deal with this by keeping our readers anonymous; we don't know your name, who you are, or any personally identifying information about you.

If your interests and information can be matched back to you personally, then I think there are issues around trust and privacy. It is true that a lot of these issues still need to be sorted out both offline (medical records, credit card purchases, postal junk mail marketing) and online (clickstream, website purchase history, search history).

krajcsak said...

What would be the point of personalizing advertising. Advertising is how we learn about new products that are out on the market or products that we would have never knew about. If it becomes personalized, all the ads we will be seeing will be for products we probably already have. So it won't be helping companies because their sales will start going down because new people won't be seeing their ads, just the same people over and over again. If you wanted to buy a product for someone, you wouldn't be seeing any advertisements more than likely because their preferences are not the same as yours and their personalized advertisements wouldn't be shown with your personalized advertisements.
So basically, personalized advertising wouldn't be helping anyone. Not the consumer, not the companies. People will begin to get irritated because they are only seeing advertisements for products they already have over and over again.
I don't think personalized advertisements is a good idea and I don't think it will do any better than the advertising we see now.

Andrew Hollister said...

Nice article which I passed along to Tom Peters a few days back. Today he points his minions to your post.

Keep up the good work

Greg Linden said...

I'm not sure I understand, krajcsak. Why would personalized advertising only show ads for "products we probably already have"?

RobotsThink said...

"but personalization should always be about helping people discover new things." Now thats some good words I am hearing from you,Glinden after a long time.
If pigeonholing is one of the issues of Personalization,and for that matter persoanlised ads,then I have an idea, should the users see the search like "....the people who searched on these terms ,also searched on these other things, would you like to see that ? ...."