Testing Two Targeting Tactics

Facebook and Google are taking targeting to a whole new level with advertising that’s based on real-time and weather forecasting, respectively. With these advancements in conversation and location-based targeting, advertisements are either going to become more like editorial content that’s of interest to consumers or customized ads will just become really creepy, depending on who you ask.

Facebook’s testing a real-time advertising tool that will match highly-targeted ads to users based on up-to-the-minute status updates and wall posts. Were I to post an update saying, “Beautiful weather in Austin today. Wish I was reading a book in the park,” within minutes, I would begin seeing ads from say Barnes & Noble, or a local independent bookstore, like Book People, or maybe even an author, promoting their most recent release. While Facebook’s real-time advertising has the most potential for advertisers in my opinion, I don’t necessarily think it will contribute to Likes on B&N’s Facebook page or to brand engagement. I think this targeting technique is an opportunity for advertising to lead to eventual sales if advertisers can capitalize on this real-time tool by  offering a deal, coupon, or other incentive for me to purchase that book I wanted to read in the park.

Google is developing a weather-forecasting tool that will display ads based on where people are located and what the current weather is like. This will enable advertisers, such as Australian boot maker UGG, to target potential consumers that are in chilly, icy, and snowy climates. This type of advertising will work in much the same way that product placements do in grocery stores–if it’s raining, the store moves the umbrella display up to the front door or near the cash registers. While I do think this weather-based targeting tool has a lot of potential, I don’t know that it has much purpose outside of when a region is experiencing unseasonable weather. There’s enough data available to UGG to know what time of year certain locations are experiencing frigid weather and when and where to target their ads.

It’s almost too bad that Google and Facebook can’t harmoniously, and profitably, merge advertising efforts because the real promise in these targeting advancements would be in Google using Facebook’s status updates to target and display ads to users who can then click, and in one single step, complete a purchase transaction. At some point, probably in the very near future, we’ll see real conversations turn into sales conversions.