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Tara West

Is Online Marketing Blurring the Boundaries and Becoming too Invasive of Consumer Space?

14th Jul 2011 Paid Search, Google AdWords, News, Industry News, SEO, SEO Resources | No Comments


Blurred LightsAdvertising and marketing is everywhere. Whether its origins are with the ancient Egyptians, or with the first newspaper advertising in 1704, it is fair to say that it has since evolved dramatically.

These developments often blur the line around what would be covered under the definition of advertising and marketing, as they become more and more invasive of consumer space.

This post talks about digital marketing developments within search, display, and social media, which continue to blur the boundaries of recognised online advertising and marketing, and arguably invade consumer space.

Search and Display Marketing

Within search marketing, we have seen paid advertising results become increasingly blurred with organic results. Paid results include site links, as organic results do, which makes them appear more like organic results. In addition to this, stars which indicate an average review are now being integrated on paid ads, making them look further like organic ads.

The launch of Google +1 saw the +1 function rolled out straight away on both organic and paid results, which is another factor that makes organic and paid results similar aesthetically.

The use of shopping comparison results organically arguably further blurs organic results to work as advertising, even if the consumer has not used a purchase intention related keyword such as ‘buy’ or ‘price’ within their search query.

One form of display advertising that is arguably blurring the boundaries is remarketing. This is where users who have visited specific pages on a site are tracked with cookies in their future browsing so that ads can be displayed on any platforms they visit which are part of the display advertising network and suitable for remarketing ads. It is this kind of use of cookies that is arguably too invasive of consumer privacy and has sparked much debate over possible regulations.

Remarketing is relatively new to display advertising and this may be one reason why it is so effective at the moment. As the technique ages it will be interesting to see how its effectiveness changes and whether more consumers will wise up and learn about how to opt out of advertisers tracking them in this way.

Social Media

The rise in advertisers paying celebrities (with money or goods), to endorse products on Twitter has attracted further attention recently from the ISBA.

The argument is that there is nothing to state that these promotional Tweets are sponsored and may not be the genuine view of the celebrity. One suggestion is use #ad to distinguish them for consumers. Enforcement of this may become an issue as advertisers are bound to be aware that response rates to endorsements are likely to be higher if it appears more natural.

Facebook have got a defined advertising space on their social network, but even this is becoming blurred as we have seen the introduction of brands using instances where the consumer’s friends have ‘liked’ a page as part of their own advertising:

These techniques appear to be working well initially, and it will be interesting to see how they play out over time. What will be next? Can advertisers get any closer to the consumer in the digital landscape? In my opinion they are already treading on our toes. In the days of traditional advertising, consumers knew it was an ad because it was during an ad break in a TV show, or listed in a newspaper. Now it is harder to spot what is and is not advertising and marketing, and it is even harder to avoid.

Should advertisers think ahead now before they aggravate consumers? They could work with them to provide some level of choice about from who, where, and when, they receive advertising and marketing messages in the digital landscape.

This post covers just a few examples of digital marketing blurring the boundaries of recognised online advertising and marketing. Please feel free to add your own examples below in the comments field or contact us on Twitter if you have any others.

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Tara West About the author

Tara West

Tara West is an experienced SEO and PPC specialist at Koozai, with particular expertise within AdWords PPC and Remarketing. She has worked on a wide variety of verticals, from plumbing and travel to fashion and beauty.

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