Brands Must Match The Right Consumer With The Right Message And Context — Or Risk Being Creepy

My reaction at first to this Cenegics ad below on Facebook was, “this is funny.”

I’m sure the picture was chosen because of it’s not-so-subtle nod to the most interesting man in the world. The ad copy suggested to me that this company was in the business of selling performance-enhancing vitamins, lotions or plastic surgery — Fountain of Youth type of stuff. Whatever, I moved on.

Then the company’s ads continued to serve in my Facebook feed. It’s like there was no frequency cap when it came to targeting me on Facebook. I can recall being served this ad at least five times and here’s the latest one as of this writing:

So I selected the “Why Am I Seeing This Ad?” button in the menu in the upper-right corner of the ad unit. I learn I’m desirable to Cenegenics because I live in the top 5% of U.S. ZIP codes according to household income. Also, I’m a man between the ages of 40 and 64 who lives or was recently in the U.S, based on my profile and where I’ve connected to the Internet.

I have a hunch these are not the only targeting parameters, but I can’t prove that right now. (Btw, a big interest of mine is sailing, and that is supported by the “Newport Apparel” ad I was served in the ad in the right column, along with the Cenegenics landing page featuring a sailboat below. Coincidence? NO!!!)

Then I went to the website and my reaction was “this is wrong.”

In my unique circumstance, this was a case of targeting the wrong person with the wrong message — on many levels.

Yes, I fit the demographics. But no, I’m not seeking to feel 10+ years younger. To be fair, maybe I will in the future. But not now. And the copy and messaging made me question the legitimacy of the company.

Most important, the campaign made me feel uncomfortable the more I was contacted. Sure, they knew enough about my identity to narrow me down into a niche segment…that’s fine, I agreed to Facebook’s privacy terms and conditions for ad targeting. Yet it was the coupling of the targeting and the message that came off as arrogant and creepy. The fact that I could tell consciously that I was being targeted as a unique group for a niche product suggested they had intimate details about me. Then delivering me casual, intimate messaging like “make 2019 the year you finally feel 10 years younger” and “reclaim your glory days” suggested they believed they really knew something about me that I was grappling with.

But I’m not, at least consciously. Maybe they know something about me that I’m not conscious of? If so, they have not earned my awareness or trust to deliver me such suggestive calls to action. Which is why this whole experience is creepy.

To be sure, I’m not overly sensitive. I will continue to use Facebook periodically. But this is something both publishers and advertisers should be aware of in this age of increasing privacy scrutiny. Accurate targeting with sloppy messaging creates a bad experience for everyone. It doesn’t make the publisher look good, either.

To create a great customer experience in advertising, you can’t focus only on targeting the right people and lose sight of the creative. You must combine data that connects you with the right people, the right message and the right context. Media and brand message must align with the values and character strengths of the consumer to achieve the best outcome (and more to come on this later).

You can take this concept a step further to a pure media cost standpoint. The disconnect of targeting the right audience with wrong (or poor or stale) creative results in low conversion and acceptance rates. And on programmatic ad exchanges, that usually equates to increasing media bid costs over time. Your overall ROI goes down.

Of course, without connecting the data from media, creative and audience (or person), you can’t isolate the variables and levers that create good experiences for the consumers and performance for the advertiser. One creative unit may perform great with one audience versus another, while one audience may perform well with any given creative. So what is driving your success? Where is your learning to get smarter with each dollar invested in contacting your prospects?

Adland has a ways to go.


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