Ad analytics seem worthless in practice

May 4, 2010

There has been a lot of news regarding online advertising lately: Apple’s iAd, apple’s change to it’s developer agreement that supposedly cripples competitor ad companies from collecting analytics, Google’s purchase of AdMob, the FTC looking into both those subjects, criticism of facebook and their data gathering.

http://www.macrumors.com/2010/05/04/u-s-federal-trade-commission-looking-into-apples-iad/

http://www.macrumors.com/2010/04/15/ad-agencies-receiving-iad-details-as-apple-looks-to-hinder-rival-ad-networks/

http://gizmodo.com/5530178/top-ten-reasons-you-should-quit-facebook?skyline=true&s=i

The debate hinges on the assumption that gathering these analytics from users is extremely valuable because advertisers can target potential customers very specifically using all that information that they gather about the user.

What I want to know is if that’s true, why are the ads I see online so terrible and so off base? For all the bajillions of bytes of data they are collecting from us, why are that ads that are served up to me as relevant to me as if I were watching late night cable? On facebook I’ve got a mortgage ad (don’t need one) 4 foods to never eat ad, (meh) and get help for being cheated on ad, (er, unless the facebook analytics are privy to something I don’t know, this one is off base.) On my iphone I’ve god ads for a singles app (I’m married), for the bing app, (I already have it), and the bing app (just because Microsoft wants to pay to put a Bing banner in every app doesn’t mean ad companies are harvesting the power of user analytics.)

For all the talk and handwringing and hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on ad companies and FTC investigations, there seems to very little ability to actually do anything with this information. I think there is quite a bit of programing and engineering work to be done before advertisers are able to actually use the data to serve up ads that would really be of interest to any individual.

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