Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

September 16 2012

What Meeting Marketers Can Learn From 2012 Election Ads

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

Remember that latest online presidential ad you just saw on your computer screen? More than likely, it was based on a quite a bit of your personal information such as other websites in your browsing history or your political party affiliation.

It's a process called microtargeting, and it allows marketers to communicate specific digital messages to specific audience members. It can be very effective for marketers - - and very upsetting for message recipients.

A new survey from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania shows that 86 percent of people do not want political campaigns to tailor ads to their interests. So what's it have to do with your next meeting?

Knowing Your Attendees Too Well

Making a decision about attending an annual meeting may not carry as much weight as your presidential vote. However, research shows that microtargeting frustrates everyday consumers, too. A 2009 study conducted by University of Pennsylvania and University of California-Berkeley indicated that around 66 percent of respondents object to online behavior tracking to create ads.

"We're in a new age of marketing and advertising," Mary Reynolds Kane, director, online marketing, PCMA, says. "Online and mobile technologies give organizations the ability to track who's viewing their site, what else they're viewing, where they're from and a range of other valuable pieces of data."

"Using that data effectively relies on recognizing the sensitivities and concerns surrounding personal privacy," Kane adds.

From Google Ads that mine email accounts for keywords that match a meeting's educational topics to Facebook Ads that recommend a meeting to friends of other attendees, meeting marketers are already using elements of this method. Some organization websites even offer the ability to capture IP and contact information from users who visit your registration page. If they abandon the decision to move through the checkout process, marketers can create a customized "Did You Forget to Register?" message.

It's a delicate balance for meeting marketers. The access to such an overwhelming amount of data can create big possibilities, but members of your audience may feel uncomfortable if they determine that your marketing campaign knows them as well as their friends. While you want to communicate customized benefits for the different segments of your audience, overly personalized marketing efforts can backfire, as seen in the now infamous Target case.

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