Kmart targets teens online, via Alloy Media Digital Marketing: Time for FTC & Congress to Protect Adolescent Consumers, inc. Privacy

Teens are ground zero for the digital marketing industry, worldwide, since they are seen as the “always-on” online generation.  Companies such as Microsoft, AOL, Sulake, MTV/Nick and many others closely research the digital behaviors of youth–all so they can be better targeted online.  This week, Kmart became the lead sponsor for a new online series featuring “product integration” and produced by tween/teen targeting company Alloy Media [now owned by Zelnick Media].  Here’s what Ad Age reported [excerpt]:This week, Alloy debuts “First Day,” its first wholly original series for the web and a branded-entertainment vehicle for Kmart, which will use the program to promote three of its back-to-school product lines: Bongo, Rebecca Bon Bon and Dream Out Loud…Josh Bank, Alloy Entertainment’s East Coast president, saw “First Day” as a creative challenge to build a series’ concept around Kmart’s brand brief. The eight-episode series follows main character Cassie…as she’s forced to relive her first day of high school over again, “Groundhog Day” style…Although Kmart and its products are never addressed by name in “First Day,” each episode will be supported by display and video pre-roll video ads highlighting the participating retail lines, with links to Kmart’s own micro-sites to purchase the products seen in the series. “First Day” will also receive heavy promotion via click-to-expand video ad units from Alloy properties such as, and, and exclusive web partnerships with, Candystand and Fanpop among others. Kmart’s media agency, MPG, and digital agency, Digitas, helped broker the deal and create the media plan with Alloy.”

Here’s how Alloy Digital explains what it delivers for marketers:  “Nobody knows the youth market better. As a pioneer in the digital space, Alloy connects with millions of young consumers online through highly trafficked websites and premium original web programming. What does that mean for you? Access to the highest concentration of teens, tweens and young adults available online. And comScore agrees – the Alloy Digital Network has ranked #1 in its category for the past year…At Alloy, our sole mission is to identify and develop innovative spaces and tactics to ensure your brand message reaches an engaged audience.”  They explain to advertisers that they know their youth target well: “We know who they are. Socialites, gamers, skaters, fashionistas – we’re all about what they’re into, where they hang out, who they are “socializing” with and … we know where to reach them. Our networks are unparalleled. No other company can deliver this level of specificity, on this large a scale and with this degree of focus. We are where they are, and so is your message.”

And it’s time to wake up FTC and state a-g’s–let alone parents.  Look at how Alloy tries to capture its youthful target via these interactive marketing tactics:
Display: Standard IAB units, interstitials

  • Full rich media capabilities
  • Targeting by geographic and demographic

Video pre/mid/post-roll

  • Targeting by geographic and demographic

Custom Integrated Programs:

  • Homepage Domination
  • Custom Video Programs
  • Sweepstakes & Contests
  • Advertorials, Quizzes, Editorial Sponsorships, Polls
  • Custom Games
  • Virtual World brand immersion programs
  • Social Media integration within Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

and in searching for partners to help them target youth, Alloy explains:
As a select member of the Alloy Digital Network, you can increase your ad revenue, raise your site visibility, traffic and buzz among users…

Become a Partner Member – Does your site have what it takes to be a part of the network? Established audience? Ad-friendly? The requirements are:

  • Minimum 100k monthly unique visitors
  • Content targeting 12-34 demo…”

Teens should not be the focus of non-transparent and unfair online marketing tactics, including data collection.  This is part of the current federal privacy and fair rules for online marketing, especially for youth, debate.  Stay Tuned!

Google: Creating a “dynasty” in online data ad targeting

From the Connected Marketing Week in SF, via ClickZ:  Google is simultaneously attempting to fill the role of ad exchange, ad network, DSP (through its Invite Media acquisition), and media agency…Michael Rubenstein, president of AppNexus and the former head of Google’s ad exchange efforts, said Google has been admirably fair and transparent. But he said that could change.”Google is putting together the pieces to form a dynasty,” he said. “So far they’re behaving pretty well as far as keeping the ecosystem open to everybody, probably because they need to. But we’ll see what happens over time as they accumulate more market power.”

Google’s Mobile Ad Plans–A Key Reason Why No Net Neutrality for Wireless [Follow the Mobile Ad $$$]

Just a quick reminder to network neutrality supporters that Google has made a multi-billion dollar investment in its ability to deliver mobile ads.  That’s a key reason for its “let’s make a digital deal” with Verizon.  For example, in 2007 Google acquired  Doubleclick:“DoubleClick Mobile is an ad delivery system for mobile websites that delivers dynamic, interactive ads to mobile web pages based on specific criteria as determined by you. It supports a wide range of devices and boasts a full management and reporting suite. Now publishers can deploy mobile advertising with the same confidence and control as online display ads…DoubleClick Mobile enables you to manage and report on your mobile advertising campaign through every click. We’ve made it easy to set campaign dates, define mobile specific targeting criteria and get full reports on all mobile campaigns…records information on third-party destination sites…DoubleClick Mobile features support for a variety of ad networks to enable you to sell more of your inventory and maximize possible yield…”

This year Google acquired Admob:  “AdMob offers brand advertisers the ability to reach the addressable mobile audiences. Our innovative ad units will carry your brand messaging onto the top mobile sites. As one of the leading brand mobile advertising marketplaces, we have the products and the people to help you meet your campaign needs…Mobile advertising provides you with targeted access to mobile users, and is easy to buy and measure…AdMob stores and analyzes data from each ad request to serve the most relevant ad possible. AdMob Mobile Metrics offers a snapshot of this data to provide insight into trends in the mobile ecosystem.”

And don’t forget Google Adsense for mobile:  “AdSense for Mobile helps you earn money by displaying relevant Google ads alongside your mobile web pages or within your mobile applications.”  Or YouTube Mobile.

PS:  eMarketer got it right.  The Google/Verizon deal is about preserving mobile as a controlled digital territory: “By 2014, eMarketer expects the number of mobile internet users in the US to reach 142 million, a near tripling of 2008 levels. The total pool of internet users, which includes mobile and wired access, will increase over the same time period from 203 million to 250 million. By 2013, more than half of all US internet users will be accessing the web through a mobile network, either alone or in addition to wired usage.”

Google and Verizon Digital Double-deal-making or Net Neutrality:”Get Lost!”

Neither Google or Verizon should be privately negotiating the future of the Internet by private, closed-door, dealmaking.  Both companies have a tremendous conflict of interest–because they are involved in distributing multimedia content and collecting user data to target consumers across the Internet, mobile and digital TV platforms.  To exempt wireless from any safeguards is a good example of how self-serving this deal is–everyone knows that mobile will operate the same way the wired Internet does–in terms of behavioral targeting, for example.  That’s why the “deal” announced has loopholes that will benefit their special interests over others online.  What’s needed are strong federal safeguards that keep the Internet open and free from under the influence of the most powerful online giants…This deal was written with purposeful “digital” loopholes so companies like Verizon and Google, and other well-endowed players,  can dominate the future of the Internet.  It potentially would enable them to create the kind of special first class web distribution service that undermines the goals of network neutrality.  Instead of the Internet, we have a special interest web.

Google’s interest in better bandwidth access for video and interactive ads—do negotiations with Verizon reflect recent changes for YouTube?

Google recently made an announcement that will require likely greater bandwidth for Google’s YouTube.  According to its July 9, 2010 post, “Today at the VidCon 2010 conference, we announced support for videos shot in 4K, meaning that now we support original video resolution from 360p all the way up to 4K…We’re excited about this latest step in the evolution of online video.” Also perhaps relevant to its Verizon dealmaking is Google’s move towards long-form ad supported videos on YouTube, to better position itself as a commercial video provider. If they want to ensure they are first in the `que’ with other entertainment companies, then reversing its position on network neutrality is part of their business plans.  They are ultimately in the same show biz/advertising space as everyone else is.   Btw, given that the media/telecom companies really don’t see a difference when marketing and distributing across multiple platforms, inc, mobile, it’s outrageous mobile would be exempt from network neutrality rules.  But perhaps blame it on Google’s Admob acquisition and its [and everyone else’s] plans for mobile location ad targeting!

Here’s an excerpt from today’s Ad Age article on Google’s new higher resolution and more bandwidth system for YouTube:  “YouTube recently announced support for “4k video,” meaning video files with a dimensional size up to 4096 x 2304 pixels — in other words, much larger than your computer can handle.  Online video is booming, and marketers are still trying to figure out how to create the optimal user experience and achieve the best results for their campaigns…YouTube mentions that watching videos in 4k requires an “ultra-fast high-speed broadband connection,” but this is actually the least-important requirement. While users on slower broadband connections can always wait for enough of the video to download and buffer before watching it (though why would a marketer force consumers to do that?)…

Google tells investors via SEC: New privacy laws could be “inconsistent with our data practices” And the “hundreds” of engineers they have working on display ad technology

Google’s 10Q second quarter report just filed at the SEC has an interesting reflection on how the online ad giant views the privacy issue.  It wrote that:

Regulatory authorities around the world are considering a number of legislative proposals concerning data protection. In addition, the interpretation and application of data protection laws in Europe and elsewhere are still uncertain and in flux. It is possible that these laws may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent with our data practices. If so, in addition to the possibility of fines, this could result in an order requiring that we change our data practices, which could have an adverse effect on our business. Complying with these various laws could cause us to incur substantial costs or require us to change our business practices in a manner adverse to our business.

And a somewhat related angle–Google’s focus on generating more ad dollars online.   Brandweek reports, in an article on all the venture investment going into expanding online targeting that:

Neal Mohan, the vp of product management at Google who leads its display ad efforts, believes the display ad market could be five times the size it is today, if the system for buying ads was more efficient and the performance measurement was better.

“It can be done, frankly, a lot better than it is today,” Mohan said, noting Google now has “hundreds” of engineers working on display advertising technology.


WSJ Begins Online Ad/Privacy Series. Plus Online Marketers Explain Behavioral Targeting, including role of social media for predicting people’s behavior “before they do it”

The Wall Street Journal launched an important new series on the online marketing and data collection/targeting industry.  Julian Angwin and colleagues have the the first main piece entitled “The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets.”  The subhead underscores what we have been telling policymakers and others for the last several years:  “…one of the fastest-growing businesses on the Internet is the business spying on consumers.” The theme of the series: “Marketers are spying on Internet users – observing and remembering people’s clicks, and building and selling detailed dossiers of their activities and interests.”

They have done a terrific job, including producing a innovative video on how cookies work, including its history online. There are special graphics as well illustrating the data tracking process.  They also discuss the growth of so-called predictive behavioral targeting, including the use of social media.  The OpenAmplify CEO explains “Social media is an amazing opportunity. For the first time in marketing history we have hundreds of millions of people online telling us what they like, what they hate and what they’re going to do before they do it … That’s extremely valuable data.”

Meanwhile, online marketers are preparing to place the forthcoming behavioral ad “icon” from the online ad industry– that’s supposed to help the industry politically head off consumer protection rules.  Here’s how one legal expert working with online marketers, in discussing the icon, describes behavioral targeting:

“Behavioral ads use technology that tracks a user’s surfing behavior on the Internet. Key data includes clickstream data such as searches made, content read, site-visit times, and websites visited. With this key data about a specific user, advertisers can create a behavioral pattern that can be linked to a specific online demographic, which becomes the basis for ads that target the specific demographic…For example, a frequent traveler can be tracked to different locations through geographically different IP addresses, and then by combining this information with cookie data, an advertiser can draw a clear picture of the person’s travel habits – destinations, length of stay, travel frequency, preferred airlines – plus much more.”

I doubt the forthcoming digital data collection and targeting “icon” and its accompanying information will stand the truth test!  How do you explain an entire “ecosystem” of data collection and profiling techniques, including social media marketing, neuromarketing, “immersive” video, online ad exchanges, etc. with a tiny digital [and appropriately named] ‘bug.”

Online Ads Generate Sales, says Yahoo! Underscores Power of Digital Marketing

One of the ploys online advertisers are using to help deflect the call for privacy and consumer protection rules is that all this data collection & and online marketing really doesn’t amount to much.  But we all know the opposite is true:  online marketing techniques are designed to trigger consumer behavior.  Here’s what Yahoo just blogged, about a speech to advertisers given by their CEO Carol Bartz [our emphasis]:”…a recent study Yahoo! did with a brick-and-mortar retailer that tracked the effect of online ads on more than [sic] million consumers. While everyone involved in the study expected that online ads would drive online buying, the study found that 93% of the effect of the ads caused offline purchases. And every ad dollar spent drove $10 in purchases.

The IAB’s Targeting/Data Collection Glossary: Oh, What a Tangled Privacy Threatened Web They Weave [Annals of Geo. Orwell meets Madison Ave.]

The Interactive Advertising Bureau has released for public comment a telling document that illustrates why Congress and the FTC need to develop some rules to protect consumers.  Take a look at the definitions the IAB has embraced on targeting and data collection–and ask yourself.  Based on what they say, can this really be–as the IAB claims–non personal information? Here are some of the definitions from the Networks & Exchanges Quality Assurance Guidelines [Feb. 2010]:

*Audience Targeting:A method that enables advertisers to show an ad specifically to visitors based on their shared behavioral, demographic, geographic and/or technographic attributes.  Audience targeting uses anonymous, non-PII data.

*Behavioral Targeting:  Using previous online user activity (e.g., pages visited, content viewed, searches, clicks and purchases) to generate a segment which is used to match advertising creative to users (sometimes also called Behavioral Profiling, Interest-based Advertising, or online behavioral advertising).  Behavioral targeting uses anonymous, non-PII data.

*Attribute – A single piece of information known about a user and stored in a behavioral profile which may be used to match ad content to users.  Attributes consist of demographic information (e.g., age, gender, geographical location), segment or cluster information (e.g., auto enthusiast), and retargeting information (e.g., visited Site X two days ago).  Segment or cluster information is derived from the user’s prior online activities (e.g., pages visited, content viewed, searches made and clicking and purchasing behaviors).  Generally, this is anonymous data (non-PII).

*Behavioral Event – A user-initiated action which may include, but not limited to: searches, content views, clicks, purchases, form-based information and other interactions.  Behavioral events are anonymous and do not include personally identifiable information (PII).

*Clickstream Data – A Clickstream is the recording of what a computer user clicks on while web browsing.  As the user clicks anywhere in the webpage or application, the action is logged on a client or inside the web server, as well as possibly the web browser and ad servers.  Clickstream data analysis can be used to create a user
profile that aids in understanding the types of people that visit a company’s website, or predict whether a customer is likely to purchase from an e-commerce website.

*Cookie – A small text file sent by a website’s server to be stored on the user’s web- enabled device that is returned unchanged by the user’s device to the server on subsequent interactions.  The cookie enables the website domain to associate data with that device and distinguish requests from different devices.  Cookies often store behavioral information.

*Cross-site Advertiser Analytics – Software or services that allow an advertiser to optimize and audit the delivery of creative content on pre-bought publisher inventory.  Data can range from numbers of pages visited, to content visited, to purchases made by a particular user.  Such data is used to surmise future habits of user or best placement for a particular advertiser based on success.

*Deep Packet Inspection – A form of computer network packet filtering that examines the data and/or header part of a packet as it passes an inspection point. In the context of online advertising, it is used to collect data, typically through an Internet Service Provider, which can be used to display targeted advertising to users based on previous web activity.

* Retargeting (or re-targeting) – The use of a pixel tag or other code to enable a third-party to recognize particular users outside of the domain from which the activity
was collected. See Creative Retargeting, Site Retargeting.

*Creative Retargeting:  A method that enables advertisers to show an ad specifically to visitors that previously were exposed to or interacted with the advertisers’ creative.

*Unique User – An individual user that has interacted with online content, which is smaller than or equal to the number of cookies observed.  The number of unique users to a website is usually an estimate.  

Facebook: `Social identity revolutionises ads’

That’s the headline on a Facebook executive’s presentation at Social Media World Forum in London.  As reported by StrategyEye, “[S]ocial network profile identities “fundamentally change” the relationship between online marketers and consumers, according to Facebook EMEA strategy and planning head Trevor Johnson. Tailoring marketing campaigns to people rather than IP addresses or other anonymous online identities provides far better ways of reaching consumers and targeting ads, says Johnson.”  The story says Johnson explained “that Facebook ads which use social context produce a 25% increase in user actions and a 68% increase in “brand lift”. He also says that posts published by brands and firms are almost seven times more likely to create a user action than paid advertising on the site.”