Have you ever abandoned an online shopping cart only to have that product follow you around the internet in the form of an ad? It's called retargeting, and it's one of several online tools made possible by cookie tracking. However, recently proposed changes to popular browsers like Firefox and Safari are threatening behavioral marketing.
So why should you care?
Because publishers need money to pay their employees, especially sites that offer you free content like newspapers, blogs and games. Behavioral advertising provides a powerful revenue stream by making advertisements efficient, relevant, and valuable. Without it, popular sites may have to start charging subscription costs to make up the difference.
Now, I'm both a marketer and a consumer, and I'm all about protecting consumer data, minimizing waste and generally limiting gaudy advertising.
You may take comfort to know pixel tracking is anonymous. We don't care to know your name, email or phone number, just the sites your computer has visited recently. If browsers start blocking third-party cookies and advertisers can't serve relevant ads then you can expect even more annoying ads that appeal to an unknown general audience. Think lots of teeth whitening and dancing mortgage ads.
As a consumer, I'd personally rather see a targeted ad from REI that actually matches my interests than some random insurance or dating ad.
Look, I want to clean up all advertising. I want transparency into who is tracking me and I want controls to limit it. Tools like this already exist online and are vastly more progressive than their offline counterparts. But adly, browsers and legislators want to take this choice away from consumers.
Now if only offline advertising worked as efficiently. Then maybe I could opt out of receiving that unwanted newspaper tossed on my driveway every Sunday.
With a Perspective, I'm Craig Smith.