The entire debate is very reminiscent of 1999 when we went through the consumer privacy wars with Kevin O’Connor and DoubleClick being placed under the hot lights on 60 minutes. DoubleClick was accused of taking personally identifiable information and matching it to that person’s online behavior. As a result of these accusations DoubleClick went to great lengths to address all of the online privacy concerns of the consumer and since this time the debate around online consumer privacy has really fallen off the radar.
There is no reason to think that Facebook is going to rekindle the issue. I am a heavy Facebook user as are several others in the marketing and media field, which Advertising Age Magazine pointed out in a recent issue. I recently gave a friend a Cosmo as a “gift” on Facebook. I also gave my wife a pair of shoes from her Facebook profile for her birthday while one of my co-workers gave me a virtual goldfish as a gift for our new home. As a Facebook user, I marvel at the behavioral targeting possibilities this site could offer both advertisers and its users, based on criteria such as the gifts you give out.
Take a moment and think of the possible combinations based on the gifts above. An advertiser could target users who give out Cosmos as gifts with ads for Stoli Vodka and a promotion for a new martini bar in town. For another user who receives shoes as gifts, they may be sent along a Prada ad that includes a discount on their next purchase. For me, I would need fish tank accessories for my new pet (or, perhaps a sushi restaurant offer). In each situation above, the consumer and advertiser are put in a win-win position: consumers will receive ads relevant to their interests and advertisers will now have greater potential for action on the part of the consumer.
To say the least, this form of marketing is white hot. eMarketer predicts that behavioral marketing spend will approach $1 billion in 2008. Mirroring this growth in spending is an industry that is working diligently to strike the optimal balance between the consumer’s right to privacy and potential marketing opportunities. With that in mind, we are sure that like other online publishers, Facebook will be able to strike the right balance between consumer privacy and marketing opportunities. After online publishers have been following the right path for years.