Targeted advertising: looking beyond the data at social and cultural value

By our News Team | 2021

Targeted ads power much of the web. Their effectiveness has driven advertisers away from many traditional forms of media.

Targeted digital advertising is vital to the African economy. It also has a larger social and cultural value that is often overlooked and not accounted for in conventional statistics.

Targeted advertising

Photo by Radu Minhai at Unsplash

Targeted advertising is a way of placing ads based on demographics, on the consumers’ previous buying history, or on known behaviour. Examples of targeted advertising include having consumers choose which ads to view, placing ads on specific social networking sites, and even billboards that vary depending on who is viewing them. 

This means more people are out there collecting and sharing information about us. This is typically without our awareness or consent.

IAB Europe’s Daniel Knapp, the organisation’s Chief Economist, has issued a new paper. It warns against a blanket ban on targeted advertising. Such a ban was earlier this year proposed in Europe by the European Data Protection Supervisor.

IAB Europe is the continent’s association for the digital marketing and advertising ecosystem.

What has targeted advertising ever done for us? 

Knapp highlights targeted advertising’s beneficial role in three areas:

  • Enabling the proliferation of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). These include sectors which have special cultural value and wider positive effects on regional social structures
  • As an instrument to help regions (whether Europe or Africa) find their place in a new digital world. This could be encouraged by large industrial policies or continental champions
  • Supporting a strong, diverse and independent media.

Africa is particular in its reliance on SMEs that have strong roots in their local communities. As these small producers become involved in the digital age, targeted advertising does more than just support business growth. 

By enabling these companies to compete for customers online, it helps preserve the uniqueness of local clusters of SMEs, the culturally significant goods they produce, and the social structures that have grown around them.

“We need a constructive debate on how the benefits of targeted advertising that uses data can be best combined with social values and cultural norms that allow [regions] to foster long term prosperity,” says Knapp.

Source: IAB Europe