Geile/Leon Marketing Communications

Do You Know Who You’re Talking To Online? How Advertisers Are Getting It All Wrong

Who Are You Talking To?It all started with Facebook. That’s really the tipping point when people began letting their guards down and putting a lot of personal information out there for the entire stalking world to see. Oh come on, don’t act like you’ve never met someone and then Googled them to find out more. Or, met a new friend and felt compelled to look through their last five years of Facebook photos. It’s just the reality of the world we live in now. The information is there, so it’s only due diligence to go out and find it. But the people that value it most are doing a terrible job of gathering the information you make available. 

Advertisers pride themselves on making ads more personal. We’ve gone from valuing reach to focusing on accuracy, so when you get a banner ad, it’s less likely to annoy you and more likely to interest you. The problem? According to a recent poll by Enliken, 49.6% of what companies think they know about you is completely wrong. Emphasis on completely. Responders to this survey said that half of the information gathered on them didn’t describe them AT ALL. That’s troubling news for marketers who spend millions targeting the right audience.

Don’t believe me? Try it.

I love advertising. I watch commercials, read print ads and pay more attention to billboards than any man should. Online surveys, I take ‘em. A website wants to ask me a few questions, no problem. I would have been surprised if I scored below an 80% on this quiz. I mean, I’m a willing participant, how off could their information be?

53% of what they knew about me was wrong.

53%! From a willing and active participant in online marketing research! Imagine what they know about a person that ignores all the pop-ups and splash surveys that I value so highly. And when I say wrong, I mean way off. I’m a single male who hates shopping and rents an apartment. But here’s what they had me pegged as:

  • Trendy homemaker (Do movie posters count?)
  • Astronomer
  • Oil Industry Worker
  • Finance Aficionado
  • Suburban Homeowner (I rent in the middle of St. Louis)

It’s not just “what” advertisers are missing, but “how.” Last year alone, over 5.3 trillion display ads we placed on websites around the net according to Digiday. The typical Internet user was served over 1,700 a month! That’s a lot of focus on banner ads, but they weren’t effective. The typical banner ad had a .04% open rate. How low is that? You’re more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad. Oh yeah, and over half of those clicks were accidental.

You’re more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad. 

So what should you do?

  • Ask about the latest technology to target users. Methods are constantly improving to accurately track data. Just because it’s bad now, doesn’t mean it won’t be more accurate tomorrow.
  • Get your marketing and advertising teams’ input on how to best target your audience. Just because you’ve used a method in the past, doesn’t mean it’s the best way to reach an audience today. Find out what the most effective mediums are to reach your base.
  • Keep using traditional media with your online efforts. People are more likely to read and believe a print ad than a banner ad. Don’t shun the old ways if they’re still effective.
  • Evaluate and re-target. With all the analytical tools out there, you can find your own mix of what works well in reaching your clients. Look at your numbers and experiment to get the best results. “Set it and forget it” is not an effective strategy.


What are your thoughts on online targeting? Do you think it’s an effective way to reach an audience, or is it just misguided attempts to try and figure you out?

Take the survey yourself and post your scores in the comments. I’d be interested to see how high and low some of the scores clock in.