It sounds great, but I don't think it's all it's cracked up to be... at least, not yet. There seem to be two major weaknesses with digital advertising.
The first question is: How accurate is behavioral targeting? If you believe the hype, every click and keystroke we make online is tracked and analyzed so marketers can send ads our way that relate to our interests and purchasing behavior. There's very little waste. It sounds too good to be true.
But does it really work that way? Not at all, according to Advertising Age reporter Matthew Creamer, who writes in this week's special Digital Issue about two full days he spent surfing the web and tracking every online ad that came onto his screen.
"After two days of watching what ads I got while wandering around the web," he writes, "I concluded that advertisers don't really know that much about me...There's a big gulf between how online advertising is talked about and how it's experienced."
He went on to write he was "served course and after course of ads that felt generally irrelevant and untargeted, and not only did nothing to stoke consumer demand, but possibly smothered it." He added that he didn't feel "the (marketing) crosshairs on me any more than when I watch an average primetime TV commercial break."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for behavioral marketing online.
The second key question about online advertising is: What impact do online ads really have?
Writing about his two days of online surfing, Creamer says, "All but the most garrish, interruptive online ads probably fly right by you. Odds are you don't click on them or notice them or share them or talk about them around the watercooler."
His take mirrors my own experience with online ads, and many friends I've spoken with say the same thing. The ads on the computer screen become just part of the background clutter, hardly noticed and very rarely clicked. Pop-ups become an annoyance that you quickly click away, much like you'd swat away a pesky fly.
Digital is too big for marketers to ignore; that's for sure. But we haven't yet found the formula for making online ads impactful and memorable, and there's still a lot more work to be done on the effectiveness of behavioral targeting.
I'm sure the industry will get there, but we're not there yet.