Targeted Advertising Fail #873,975,294

26 Feb

Firstly, yes, I read thesuperficial (not that I give a flying f*ck about Lindsay Lohan or whatever, but its a solid way to maintain a dying convo with some girls in NYC.  Also, and more importantly, who DOESN’T like Bar Rafaeli in a bikini?!  Exactly.)

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to revisit a topic I’ve been following since late 2002/early 2003: Targeted internet advertising (or lack thereof).    I’ve done a fair deal of programming and web design in my day, so I understand that in practice, delivering (with any semblance of accuracy, efficacy, consistency, etc) truly targeted ads is not as easy as it sounds.  However, every now and then (I’m looking at you, Facebook) I encounter an example of an utter FAIL that I’m moved to take pen to paper (er fingers to keyboard, as it were).

Today, we’re going to examine what I think are two simple (not mutually exclusive) aspects of any high-level, rules-based ad-delivery scheme: Language and demographics.  Take, for example, this screenshot from thesuperficial for McDonalds:

Why is this such a targeted advertising FAIL?

  • thesuperficial.com is an English-language site.  The ad, as you can clearly see, is in Spanish.  The site is not published in any other languages.
  • I’ve never seen a non-English ad on this site (and I’m a fairly regular reader).
  • My Spanish is a little rusty, but I’m pretty sure that’s an ad for 2 for $3 Fillet-o-Fish (aka McFish) sandwiches.
  • Sure, its Lent, and apparently this is the time of year when McDonald’s sells 25% (“apparently” being the key word) of the things.  I haven’t found any reliable data on what % of Global annual sales the McFish represents, but I’d imagine its pretty minimal (best guess low-to-mid single digit %).
  • Alexa informs us the demographics for The Superficial are as follows:

So, what we know is that relative to the rest of the web, The Superficial readers are generally 18-34, mostly Female, college-educated, accessing the site from work or home.

So, a question for the audience: What’s the demographic overlap between The Superficial’s readership and consumers of the Filet-o-Fish?

Disappointingly, I don’t have a conclusive answer, and despite wasting the past 2 hours of my life on it, can’t seem to find the underlying data I’d need to prove this FAIL beyond a shadow of a doubt, argh!

What I did find, though, is that among college graduates, those identifying themselves as Hispanic (approximately the same for both men and women) represent maybe 10% (+/- a few % points) of college graduates in the U.S. from the data I have examined.  Just based-upon the facts we do know (english site,~ 90%+ non-hispanic readership, relatively unpopular food item, etc), I just can’t seem to figure out the rationale for serving the McFish ad on this website.  In fairness to the technology, I went through the next 15 pages and couldn’t get the system to serve the ad again, so perhaps it was something of a fluke.

On the other hand, just Facebook, alone, serves up so many horrendously-targeted ads every day, I’m loathe to give the technology the benefit of the doubt.

Verdict:  Spanish ads for tertiary menu items on English language sites with majority non-Hispanic readership?  FAIL

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One Response to “Targeted Advertising Fail #873,975,294”

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  1. Hot Links: Jumping the Gun The Reformed Broker - February 28, 2010

    […] Look who's blogging again!  The Anal_yst on the failure of targeted web advertising.  (StoneStreetAdvisors) […]

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