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Physical Addresses To Aid Online Targeting?

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As online marketers, we have the luxury of reaching our targets based on what they search, browse or click on. That tells us a lot about expressed interests. By contrast, physical addresses provide information about the probability of interests.

Recently, Acxiom announced new services (WSJ article, paid access) which actively connect addresses to online ads. When their customers collect addresses online, Acxiom maps them to lifestyle codes and enables ad targeting using these codes.

Where you live speaks volumes, especially to off-line marketers without other insights. You and your neighbors share demographics, media interests and consumption patterns. For example, affluent Texan neighbors may buy parkas for their ski vacations while most citizens never think about them. (Check out your own zip code at Claritas.)

Admittedly these lifestyle code refinements can help *a little* online, but privacy risks may quickly erase the benefits. Any kind of secondary use of addresses is likely to raise concerns from end-users and privacy advocates. I believe this is a case of "we can connect the dots" but at what cost?

October 31st Update:

Regarding privacy, it's my contention that most consumers don't really pay much attention to how their cookies are used. Still we should expect people to step forward and identify risks, which happens whenever new marketing data's introduced. In a world where even search engines age out cookies, we are simply in a heightened state of alert.

Today, Acxiom reached us about how they protect the privacy of consumers and their Personally Identifiable Information (PII). These details are worth passing along:

* When a consumer registers on a partner site, Acxiom uses his/her address to assign a specific segmentation cluster code.
* This code contains no PII, and consumers are notified that a third-party cookie will be set.
* The cookie that is set is completely anonymous and contains the segmentation cluster code.
* There is no way for either Acxiom or advertisers to access consumers' PII through the cookies.

Also, Acxiom pointed out that they don't redistribute addresses in any way. My “secondary use of addresses” was misleading, as I meant the segmentation cluster codes – not additional use of household information. I hope this clarifies for SEW readers.

Of course, I look forward to seeing how Acxiom and others will aid online targeting, as the posting title suggests!


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