Not so long ago, I was in the market for a pram. A newcomer to the world of pending motherhood, it was only with my first Google search that I discovered buying a pram is as complicated as buying a car. Even more so, when you consider that most of us have at least a conscious awareness of what car brands we can choose from and what they offer and say about us if we do so.

With prams, the array of choices is mind-boggling. There are pramettes, strollers, joggers and double prams. There are ones with travel systems and others with enough gadgets to turn Maxwell Smart green. Some are for newborns and some aren’t. Some start at a budget-friendly $200, while others retail for $1700 or more. As one website I browsed wrote: “Choosing the right pram is a nine month research project in itself!”

Determined to simplify the process, I turned to the web. It’s there I discovered how mismatched digital advertising is to the consumer journey, despite all the years I’ve listened to the industry argue about how targeted digital advertising is. Shop for a pram and you soon learn digital advertising is far from synonymous with targeted advertising.

As a web shopper, any advertiser tracking my cookie-behaviour could see that I was in the market for a pram, and from there make the cognitive leap that I might also soon be in the market for all the other paraphernalia that you need when having a baby. Over a matter of weeks, I visited parenting forums and blogs talking about prams, review websites and retail sites, and I comparison-shopped on Australian and US website to see how prices varied.

In a highly competitive retail sector worth AUD$4 billion annually and where no one retailer dominates more than five per cent of the market, my data should have fallen like manna from the skies to any marketing retailer wanting to maximise their sales.

Yet the more sites I browsed, the more conscious I became that advertising was letting me down in my searching. Far from aiding my search and pointing me to great deals on the products I was reviewing or their alternatives, too often I was served ads that bore little relevance to my browsing activity or life stage. On one mums-to-be website, there was even an ad promoting extreme sports packages in the US snowfields. In their pregnant state, I doubt many mums-to-be want to try a 360 off a kicker slope.

At the end of 2011, is there any excuse for digital advertising failing to match the consumer journey and not deliver ads that are timely and relevant to browsing behaviours? I think not.

The technology exists to use consumer cookie data judiciously (and without abusing consumer privacy) to deliver ads that are relevant to consumers’ browsing activity. Advertisers that use those tools enjoy better results. Period.

For consumers, if we must accept the nuisance of advertising as a necessary by-product of a healthy economy, we’re less annoyed by it when it at least points us in the direction of a better deal on a product we’re on the look out for anyway.

Poor digital advertising is rife, but as an industry we no longer have an excuse for it. Telling your shareholders that dismal CTRs are the industry average and therefore acceptable won’t wash much longer as advertisers that do use data well nudge ahead in their sales and success.

Carolyn Bollaci
BY Carolyn Bollaci ON 21 October 2011
Regional vice president, Australia & New Zealand, Sizmek