We already have the ability to target ads in relatively sophisticated ways, with various types of matching schemes, as well as geotargeting, dayparting and with some services, using demographic profiles of users. Microsoft now plans to offer behavior targeting in its contextual ads starting next year.
Online Media Daily is running the first of a three-part series on the forthcoming program, and the article asks some good questions about pricing, privacy and other issues.
What if the search engines we've all come to rely on started examining our online activity, or our frequently searched terms, and used that information to determine--say--how close we were to making a purchase, and which brands we were considering? Would marketers pay for such information? If so, how much? Would consumers accept this degree of targeting, or would they resist it as an invasion of privacy? And will search marketing, which has worked so simply in the past, be able to absorb this new level of complexity?
What is new is the focus on behavioral targeting by the major search players.
Want to know more about behavioral targeting? See this blog post from Danny with a good rundown of information.