Saturday, March 07, 2015

No safe place to tweet

On Thursday Twitter launched 'Partner Audiences', a feature that enables advertisers to target twitter users based on their 'off-twitter' purchase and intent activity. In other words, Twitter’s Marketing Platform Partners, companies like Acxiom and Datalogix, create audience segments within Twitter based on information that that they collect from all over the Web. Twitter had a watered down version of the rich targeting data now available to its advertisers but Acxiom was nice to share some detail on its website (link below the excerpt):

“…these categories are selected by behavior, life stages, demographics and household information, and span all industries including financial services, retail, auto and consumer packaged goods…”

Technical details of the integration are sparse but one can assume (potentially at their own risk) that the customer data is anonymized and sensitive customer data is not transferred. Furthermore Twitter (ever so helpfully) points out that their users can simply opt-out of this feature from their privacy settings. And Twitter talks about how there is a minimum audience size so that there is never the chance that a single customer gets a personal ad (not personalized but personal i.e. one on one from the advertiser). In other words it was technically possible that this program allowed an advertiser to serve a single ad uniquely to one single user so that is the ultimate personalized ad. But Twitter disabled it because that would be too creepy. If you ordered a grande mocha Frappuccino from Starbucks with an extra shot, would it have been possible for Peet’s Coffee to advertise the same exact drink to you at half the price? I’ll let that percolate.

I think most Internet users know that there are companies with accessible names such as Acxiom and Datalogix making a living by aggregating online behavioral customer information and selling it to the highest bidders. But there is still something unnerving about the depth and breadth of this initiative. For instance, just Acxiom claims it provides a global addressable reach of 180 million Internet users, 300 million telephone numbers, and 1 billion physical and email addresses. Wow. Ultimately the efficacy of the program will weigh heavily on the reaction to this sort of integration.

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